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Sun 16 Aug 2009 09:02 PM

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Iran says steps taken to ensure gasoline supply

Gov't looking to protect domestic needs in case West targets gasoline imports.

Iran's oil minister on Sunday shrugged off the impact of any Western sanctions targeting the country's gasoline imports, saying all necessary measures had been taken to meet the nation's fuel needs.Iran is the world's fifth-largest crude exporter but its refineries lack the capacity to meet domestic fuel demand so it imports up to 40 percent of its gasoline supplies. The US and its allies may target those imports if Tehran refuses to enter talks over its nuclear programme.

The West suspects Iran aims to make nuclear bombs, while Tehran insists it needs fuel for power plants.

"Iran possesses one of the biggest reserves of oil in the world and consequently no country can apply gasoline sanctions on it," Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars News Agency.

"All the necessary measures to supply gasoline have been taken and there is no worry in regards to meeting the country's gasoline needs," he said, without elaborating.

To pressure Tehran to give up its nuclear programme, the US Senate last month voted to ban firms that sell gasoline and other refined oil products to Iran from also receiving Energy Department contracts to deliver crude to the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Analysts say US sanctions against suppliers of fuel to Iran would drive up the price the Islamic Republic has to pay for imports and provide a big money-making opportunity for oil traders able to flout the measures.

The companies that sell fuel into Iran include Europe-based trading firms Vitol, Trafigura, Russia's LUKOIL and Malaysia's state oil company Petronas, oil traders said.

India's Reliance has also supplied Iran, but has shipped nothing since May, traders said, possibly to avoid any future restrictions on sales to the US under sanctions. (Reuters)

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