BUSINESS

Iran postpones vote on banning oil sales to EU

01/29/2012 08:50 EST | Updated 03/30/2012 05:12 EDT
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's parliament has postponed a vote on a bill requiring the government to immediately halt crude oil sales to Europe, an Iranian lawmaker said Sunday.

The ban would be a response to the EU's decision to stop importing Iranian oil and freeze assets of its central bank.

The EU decision last Monday was the latest attempt to pressure Iran over its nuclear program. The U.S. and its allies believe it is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes.

Lawmaker Ali Adiani Rad is quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency as saying lawmakers need experts' views before they vote on the ban.

Because of the significance of the step, Rad was quoted as saying, "Lawmakers proposing the bill believe the legislation should be put on agenda after strong expert evaluation is obtained."

Rad said no date has been set for a vote.

Many Iranian officials have called for an immediate ban on oil exports to the European bloc before the EU's ban goes into full effect in July, arguing that the 27 EU nations account for only about 18 per cent of Iran's overall oil sales and would be hurt more by the decision than Iran. China, a key buyer of Iranian crude, has criticized the EU embargo.

Ahmad Qalebani, director of the National Iranian Oil Company, said his company is ready to cut off oil sales to Europe at any moment.

Qalebani told the semiofficial Mehr news agency Sunday that Iran can find new customers for its crude oil, but some European refineries will find it technically problematic to switch to non-Iranian crude.