April 25, 2019 / 4:02 AM / a month ago

Saudi Arabia says China has not yet asked for more oil amid tighter Iran sanctions

BEIJING (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid al-Falih told Reuters on Thursday that China has “not yet” asked for more crude oil after the United States decided to end sanction waivers on Iranian oil imports that had permitted Beijing to keep buying from Tehran.

The United States re-imposed sanctions against Iran’s oil exports last November, but Washington initially allowed the eight biggest buyers of Iranian oil - China is number 1 - to keep purchasing limited imports for six months ending April.

Al-Falih spoke briefly on the sidelines of a visit to Beijing for a summit on China’s Belt and Road economic development initiative, rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond. Beijing has criticized the U.S. move to re-impose Iran oil sanctions.

U.S. officials, speaking during a separate media call earlier on Thursday, said they were confident China would be able to find alternative supplies to Iran.

Asked if other Asian buyers had asked for more crude oil, al-Falih said: “In the beginning of May, we will find out demand for June and will be responsive.”

Saudi Arabia’s April crude oil production was nearly steady with previous months and will be in the 9.8 million barrels per day (bpd) range or “maybe lower”, he said.

Before the reimposition of sanctions, Iran was one of the biggest producers among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) at close to 4 million bpd. Iran’s oil exports have now dropped to about 1 million bpd.

As a result of the tightening sanctions against Iran, and because of voluntary supply cuts by other OPEC-members including Saudi Arabia, crude oil prices reached their highest levels in six months this week. [O/R]

Reporting by Dominique Patton; Writing by Shivani Singh; Editing by Henning Gloystein and Kenneth Maxwell

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