Iran claims it has overcome sanctions

Nasser Karimi, Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's oil minister claimed Sunday his country has successfully overcome sanctions on the sale of its oil, state TV reported.

The U.N. and West have imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran to try to persuade it to stop its uranium enrichment project, including a ban by the EU on oil imports, but Iran remains defiant.

Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi that the industry was in "bad shape" about two months ago because of the oil embargo, "but resorting to planning in the oil industry, we left the bottleneck behind, almost." The EU imposed its embargo in July.

Ghasemi said Iran's oil sector would be able to export its oil to the "farthest spots" around the world. In contrast, China, India and Korea recently announced that they have cut back their oil imports from Iran to comply with international sanctions.

Ghasemi also said that Iran has set up its own insurance for oil tankers after Western companies refused to cover them.

"By revoking insurance, the West disrupted transportation of oil, the most important part" of trade, Ghasemi was quoted as saying.

He said since a large portion of Iran's revenue comes from oil exports, "the embargo is a very important issue."

Iran's oil exports have fallen by about half in recent months due to the punitive oil and banking measures enacted by the U.S. and Europe over concerns Tehran might pursue production of nuclear weapons. Iran denies that it is developing weapons, saying its nuclear activities are aimed at peaceful purposes like power generation and cancer treatment.

Before the fall of exports, some 80 percent of Iran's foreign revenue had come from oil sales. The drop has contributed to a plummet in the country's currency has plummeted to less than half its former value.

Due to longstanding U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil industry, the country has been suffering from lack of technology and equipment in its oil sector, but a senior official said that problem, too, is being solved.

Ahmad Qalehbani, head of state-owned National Iranian Oil Company, told the semi-official ISNA news agency that the country is capable of producing its own equipment for 85 percent of its needs in the oil industry.