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US Softens Stance On Countries Buying Iranian Oil

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The United States will work with countries importing Iranian oil on a case by case basis to get as many of them as possible “down to zero” by early November, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday, clarifying comments from earlier this week that suggested there wouldn’t be any waivers for Iran’s oil buyers.

Earlier this week, a senior State Department official said that the U.S. was pushing allies to cut oil imports from Iran to zero.

Asked by reporters in a teleconference call on Tuesday if there would be waivers granted, the official said “I would be hesitant to say zero waivers ever. I think the predisposition would be no, we’re not granting waivers.”

The market reacted to the possibility of ‘zero’ Iranian oil on the market and ‘no waivers’ with oil prices jumping later on Tuesday, on expectations that more Iranian barrels could be taken off the market than expected as the U.S. Administration looks determined to choke off as much Iranian oil exports as possible.

Today, a State Department official clarified some of the earlier ‘zero Iranian oil’ statement, saying, as carried by CNBC, that “Our focus is to work with those countries importing Iranian crude oil to get as many of them as possible down to zero by Nov. 4.”

“We are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case by case basis. We are serious about our efforts to pressure Iran to change its threatening behavior,” the official said.

Related: Tehran: Taking Iran’s Oil Out Of The Market Is ‘Impossible’

Following the Tuesday comments for ‘zero Iranian barrels on the market’, Iran said on Wednesday that the removal of Iranian oil exports from the global market by November is impossible, according an Iranian oil official quoted by the semi-official news agency Tasnim.

Earlier on Thursday, India’s oil ministry was said to have asked local refiners to get ready for a “drastic reduction or zero” imports from Iran.

According to Helima Croft, global head of commodities research at RBC, the Thursday statement from the State Department shows that the U.S. wants to be aggressive in reducing as much Iranian oil exports as possible, and companies have already started to react.

“If you have any U.S. exposure, you’re not going to risk it,” Croft told CNBC.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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