June 28, 2018 / 3:51 PM / 20 days ago

U.S. says to work with allies to cut Iran oil imports

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is prepared to work with countries on a case by case basis to help them reduce imports of Iranian oil as Washington prepares to reimpose sanctions against Tehran in November, a State Department official said on Thursday, suggesting the Trump administration could offer waivers.

A senior State Department official said this week that countries will need to cut their imports of Iranian oil to zero from November and exemptions are unlikely.

“Our focus is to work with those countries importing Iranian crude oil to get as many of them as possible down to zero by November 4,” a State Department official told Reuters, adding: “We are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case by case basis.”

Senior Trump administration officials have visited European nations this week and will head to the Middle East and Asia later to pressure countries to reduce their oil supplies from Iran. Washington hopes it will force Tehran to negotiate a follow-up agreement to halt its nuclear program.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from what he called a “defective” nuclear deal agreed between Iran and six world powers in July 2015.

That deal sought to curb Tehran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions. Trump ordered the reimposition of U.S. sanctions against Iran that were suspended under the accord.

“We are serious about our efforts to pressure Iran to change its threatening behavior,” the official said on Thursday.

Administration officials said they will press Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states next week to ensure there are enough global oil supplies once sanctions are reimposed on Iran. They did not elaborate on how much additional global supply was needed.

Officials have yet to hold talks with China and India, among the largest importers of Iran’s oil, as well as Turkey and Iraq.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler

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