(Adds background on gasoline imports)
TEHRAN, April 22 Sanctions have had no impact on
Iran's ability to export oil and the risk that future measures
might hit its gasoline imports is a joke, Iranian Oil Minister
Massoud Mirkazemi said on Thursday.
"We have no limitations to export our oil," Mirkazemi told
reporters on the sidelines of an energy conference.
Sanctions had helped rather than hindered Iran's oil
industry, he said.
Iran faces the threat of a fourth round of United Nations
sanctions which the West hopes will pressure it to curb a
nuclear programme it fears is aimed at creating a bomb,
something Iran denies.
The latest draft proposals agreed by the United States,
Britain, France and Germany include restrictions on new Iranian
banks established abroad and on insurance of cargo shipments to
and from Iran, the world's fifth-largest crude exporter.
Israel wants tougher measures that would block Iran's vital
gasoline imports. Due to a lack of investment in oil refineries,
Iran has to import some 40 percent of its gasoline needs,
despite being the world's fifth biggest exporter of crude.
Asked about the threat of gasoline sanctions, Mirkazemi
said: "It's a joke."
"Despite all limitations imposed on Iran's oil and gas
industry, we have been able to improve. Imposing sanctions has
not isolated Iran but helped the country to improve its oil
industry," he told the conference.
(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi; Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing
by Angus MacSwan)