DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has reached agreements with European refiners to sell some of its oil through a private consortium, an official said on Saturday, a move designed to circumvent sanctions intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt its disputed nuclear programme.
The head of the oil products exporters' union said the agreement between the exporters' union, Iran's central bank, and the oil ministry would get round a European Union ban on shipping insurance for tankers carrying Iranian oil, though he gave few details and did not name the refiners involved.
The EU put into effect a ban on the importation, purchase, or shipping of Iranian oil on July 1, and the Islamic Republic will see its oil exports fall by more than 50 percent this month from last year's regular levels, costing it billions of dollars a month in revenue.
"There have been discussions with European refiners, and a final agreement has even been reached," said Hassan Khosrojerdi, the exporters' union head, according to Iran's Mehr News Agency.
"In accordance with the agreement, it is planned that 20 percent of Iran's oil exports will go through this private consortium."
He added: "It is likely that because of international restrictions, we will give minor privileges or discounts to some of the buyers of our oil."
Khosrojerdi did not say which refiners were involved or how they would receive the oil. Asked what steps had been taken to circumvent the shipping insurance ban, he said only "With the agreement with some of the European refiners, this problem has been solved completely."
Iran's oil ministry authorised the private export of Iranian oil in May, the Iranian Student News Agency reported at the time.
Historically, Iran's National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) was solely responsible for the sale and marketing of Iran's crude.
Before the EU embargo, Iran sold about one fifth of its crude to Europe. EU sanctions targeting insurance have severely disrupted Iran's oil sales to Asia as well, and Japan, one of Iran's top buyers, will import no Iranian crude in July.
Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati, editing by Tim Pearce