WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States wants to avoid disturbances in global oil markets as they reopen sanctions against Tehran and in some cases will consider exemptions for countries that need more time to wipe off their oil imports from Iran, US Secretary of State Steven Mnuchin said.
"We want people to reduce oil purchases to zero, but In some cases, if people can not do it overnight, we will consider exceptions, "told reporters Mnuchin on Friday, clarifying some US officials comments that there would be no exceptions. Mnuchin's comments were embargoed for release on Monday.
Mnuchin spoke with reporters on his way from Mexico where he was part of a high-level US delegation led by State Secretary Mike Pompeo to meet Mexico's next president, Manuel Manuel Lopez Obrador.
The Trump Administration manages countries to reduce all imports of Iranian oil from November when the United States redisperses sanctions against Tehran after Trump retired from the Nuclear Agreement 2015 agreed between Iran and six major powers against the advice of Allies in Europe and elsewhere .
Mnuchin said he would meet with counterparts from developed and developing countries besides a finance minister's G20 meeting in Buenos Aires on 19-22 July. US sanctions against Iran are likely to be raised in his talks.
"We have said a lot specifically, there are no file deviations, there is no grandfathering," said Mnuchin. "We want to be very careful in wind-down around the energy markets to make sure people have time."
He added: "The government department has the opportunity to issue exceptions for significant reductions in oil markets, something that the treasury and the state will do."
Mnuchin said Washington had made it clear to allies that they expect them to impose sanctions on Iran "but if there are specific situations, we are open to listening."
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said last weekend that Washington had rejected a French request for exemption for its companies working in Iran, according to Le Figaro.
Paris had identified key areas where it expected exemptions or extended closure periods for French companies, including energy, banks, pharmaceuticals and cars.
The Trump Administration has said that there are more than 50 foreign companies that have withdrawn their business from Iran since Trump announced that the United States suffered from the nuclear agreement between Iran and the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia in 2015.
Pompeo, who also spoke to reporters on Friday, said he had discussed the United States plans to restore sanctions against Iran with "anything but a" country. He did not name the country he had not yet consulted.
"What they have asked us to do is review how we get there and the timeline for it," he said, "and so I'm very sure they understand."
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke in remarks taken on state television on Saturday, Washington said more isolated than ever on sanctions against Iran, even among its allies.
His comments seemed to alleviate popular concerns driven by Trump's decision to withdraw from Iran's nuclear agreement.
The likely return of US economic sanctions has triggered a rapid fall of Iran's currency and protests by bargainers who are usually loyal to the Islamic rulers.
Trump has said that he asked Saudi Arabia to raise oil production if it is needed to ensure global oil supplies and the country has 2 million barrels per day with spare capacity.
The oil producing countries agreed with Russia and other oil producing allies on June 23 to increase production from July, with Saudi Arabia promising a "measurable" supply support, but no specific numbers.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing Phil Berlowitz