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EU eyes oil barter system with Iran to get around US sanctions

US not considering release of emergency oil stockpiles to offset sanctions on Iran, as EU looks to barter mechanism being in place by November
US sanctions on Iran's oil exports are set for 5 November (Reuters)

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said on Wednesday a so-called Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) under consideration to facilitate trade with Iran may be in place "before November".

The SPV aims to keep trade flowing even if US sanctions hit Tehran at that time.

Asked if the United States pulling out of the Iran deal could be a serious challenge to the US dollar as a reserve currency in the context of the creation of the SPV, Mogherini said: "It is still an initial stage, but this could be a result of that. For sure, it has made us and other parts of the world wonder what kind of (financial) autonomy we have."

Even as she said she continues to consider the United States the EU's strongest ally, speaking at a conference in New York, Mogherini said: "No sovereign country or organisation can accept that somebody else decides with whom you are allowed to do trade with."

European diplomats have previously described the SPV proposal as a means to create a barter system, similar to one used by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, to exchange Iranian oil for European goods without money changing hands.

The US reimposed sanctions on Iran after US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the nuclear agreement, signed by Iran and major world powers. The deal saw Iran drastically curb its nuclear programme in exchange for lifting economic sanctions.

Further US measures targeting Iran's oil exports are set to be imposed on 5 November.

At the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump said Washington is "working with countries that import Iranian crude oil to cut their purchases substantially".

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Wednesday that the administration is not considering a release from the US emergency oil stockpile to offset the impact of looming Iran sanctions, and will instead rely on big global producers to keep the market stable.

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Perry said while price spikes are possible in the short-term, "I'm comfortable that the world supply can absorb the sanctions that are coming".

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that Tehran may remain in the deal.

"As long as the deal serves our interests we will remain in the pact ... Remaining members of the deal have taken very good steps forward, but Iran has higher expectations," he said, adding that forthcoming US sanctions in November on Iran were illegal and "nothing new".

Iranian leaders had warned that they would leave the pact and resume uranium enrichment at higher levels than before the agreement if European countries fail to fulfil their end of the bargain. 

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