* NIOC official admits crude exports down 20-30 percent
* Says maintenance on wells cuts output, refineries take
* Puts Iran exports at 1.65 mbpd, still above external
By Vladimir Soldatkin
MOSCOW, June 27 Iran acknowledged for the first
time on Wednesday that its oil exports have fallen sharply, down
20-30 percent from normal volumes of 2.2 million barrels daily.
A National Iranian Oil Company official in Moscow denied
exports had been hit by sanctions against Iran's nuclear
programme, saying that oilfields were under maintenance and
crude production was being diverted for refining.
But the admission that exports have fallen substantially is
a change of tack from Tehran which until now has denied that the
U.S. and European measures have had much or any impact.
"It was 20 to 30 percent we reduce regarding to our export,"
NIOC official Mohammad Ali Emadi said in English. "Some part of
the reduction is shifting for the refinery internally."
Customers in Europe and Asia have been scaling back
purchases of Iranian crude ahead of European Union bans on
imports and tanker insurance for ships carrying Iranian crude
that are due to come into effect on July 1.
Emadi said Iran's normal crude exports were 2.2 million bpd,
in line with external estimates. A 20-30 percent fall would put
Iranian exports at 1.54-1.76 million bpd, off 440-660,000 bpd.
That is still above most third-party estimates which put
Iran's crude exports in June at about 1.3 million bpd.
"We gradually started to reduce, It is not because of the
sanctions but sometime regarding overhaul maintenance of the
wells," said Emadi.
The NIOC official said Iran wanted to export more gas to
India and Pakistan to make up for the fall in crude exports.
Iran has long aspired to export gas east but would require heavy
investment in a pipeline or liquefied natural gas facilities to
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Richard Mably and