Iran to increase oil export levels, Opec envoy says
Iran has snubbed a proposal agreed to by four oil powerhouses to cap their crude output if other producers do the same, with a senior official saying Tehran has no intention of freezing production levels.
Mahdi Asali, Iran's Opec envoy, said his country will keep increasing crude exports until it reaches levels attained before international sanctions were imposed on Tehran over its nuclear programme.
The remarks come a day after four nations - Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Venezuela - conditionally agreed to cap their output at last month's levels in order to halt a slide that has pushed oil prices to their lowest point in more than a decade.
Oil prices recently plummeted to under 30 US dollars (£20.98) a barrel, the lowest in 13 years.
The four countries made their announcement following a meeting on Tuesday in the Qatari capital of Doha that pointedly did not include Iran. They agreed to act only if other producers made similar freezes.
Mr Asali said the fall in oil prices should be blamed on oversupply and that it was up to Saudi Arabia and others to cut down production to boost oil prices.
He said the four nations that participated at the Doha gathering could stabilise oil prices on their own - if they cut their production by two million barrels a day.
"These countries increased their production by four million barrels when Iran was under sanctions," Mr Asali was quoted as saying by the Shargh daily.
"Now it's primarily their responsibility to help restore balance on the market. There is no reason for Iran to do so."
Iran is eager to ramp up its exports now that sanctions related to its nuclear programme have been lifted, saying recently it aims to put another 500,000 barrels a day on the market.
Figures from the International Energy Agency show it pumped 2.9 million barrels daily in December before sanctions were lifted.
Iran used to export 2.3 million barrels per day but its crude exports fell to one million in 2012.
On Tuesday, Iran's petroleum minister Bijar Namdar Zangeneh signalled the Islamic Republic has no intention of giving up its share of the market.
He acknowledged that global markets are "oversupplied" but said Iran "will not overlook its quota", according to comments carried by his ministry's Shana news service.