Eni's Iran oil imports stall despite EU clearance

LONDON Mon Aug 13, 2012 6:13pm IST

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LONDON Aug 13 (Reuters) - Italy's Eni has been unable to import Iranian oil for a second month running, due to bank payment and insurance problems, despite having European Union clearance to receive the oil to recover $1 billion in debts, industry sources said.

An EU ban on imports of oil from Iran came into force on July 1, but the bloc exempted Eni to allow it to recoup long-standing debts it is owned by Tehran for work it undertook in the energy sector, which are being paid in oil.

The West is seeking to stifle Tehran's finances to prevent it from developing an atomic bomb, while Tehran says its nuclear activities are peaceful.

EU measures have stopped European firms, which dominate the marine insurance sector, from offering cover on Iranian crude. Industry watchers say the measure has proved to be the hardest hitting in the West's arsenal of sanctions.

"Beyond the exemption, they also need a vessel, insurance," said a crude oil trader who added Eni had not been able to import any cargoes from Iran since July 1.

A spokesman for the energy company declined to comment.

Several traders said the difficulty in finding an insurer for the deliveries from Iran was the main reason that Eni had not received any shipments since the embargo.

"You can't even get one cargo insured," another trader said.

Iran's remaining large oil buyers, which include China, all face complications due to tight Western sanctions, which have halved Tehran's oil exports over the past year. India, South Korea, Japan and Turkey, have had to issue sovereign guarantees or started using Iranian tankers.

Eni's chief executive Paolo Scaroni told reporters in June he expected the company to continue to take Iranian crude to recover its debts. (Additional reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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