Iran General NewsU.S. encouraged by India's pullback on Iran oil

U.S. encouraged by India’s pullback on Iran oil

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Wall Street Journal: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised India for beginning to reduce oil purchases from Iran and said there are adequate supplies in the international market for New Delhi to cut down those imports even further. The Wall Street Journal

By AMOL SHARMA

NEW DELHI – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised India for beginning to reduce oil purchases from Iran and said there are adequate supplies in the international market for New Delhi to cut down those imports even further.

“We commend the steps they have taken and we hope they will do even more,” Mrs. Clinton said in Kolkata in an interview on the Indian news channel NDTV.

India imports about three-quarters of its oil requirements and officials previously said Iran supplies 12% of the total, making it one of India’s biggest suppliers. For months, New Delhi had been resisting Washington’s calls for it to cut back, citing an overwhelming need for oil in a nation where energy demand is surging and 1.5 million new vehicles hit the roads every month.

It isn’t clear how much India has reduce its imports recently. Indian leaders haven’t released any import data publicly showing a decrease in Iranian imports. But there are signs of change. Ahead of Mrs. Clinton’s visit, New Delhi asked state-owned Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd. and closely held Essar Oil Ltd. to cut back imports of Iranian oil in the year that ends in March 2013, people with knowledge of the move said.

Mrs. Clinton said there are sufficient crude oil supplies from countries like Saudi Arabia and Iraq for India to significantly shift its purchasing patterns away from Iran. “There are ways for India to continue to meets its energy requirements,” Mrs. Clinton said.

The U.S. wants New Delhi to play a bigger role in pressuring Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, which Western nations believe is intended to develop nuclear weapons but Iran maintains is for peaceful energy purposes. International sanctions have helped force Iran back into negotiations, Mrs. Clinton said. Iran returned to negotiations over the nuclear program last month in Istanbul and has agreed to meet again on May 23 in Baghdad.

Mrs. Clinton, who took questions on from a live studio audience on a range of subjects – from human rights to foreign investment to the role of women in politics — said the U.S. needs India “to keep the pressure on Iran.” She detailed what she said is the Iranian regime’s “aggressive history,” pointing to what she said was Iran’s plot to kill Saudi Arabia’s U.S. ambassador by hiring “a drug-trafficking hit man.”

And she said India is beginning to feel the impact, too – she blamed Iran for an attack on an Israeli diplomat in Delhi in February.

“We need India to be part of the international effort,” she said.
—Rakesh Sharma contributed to this article.

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