Purchase of Iranian oil may drop further: Rao

Washington: India`s purchase of oil from Iran has dropped slightly in last two years and is expected to drop further given the difficulties New Delhi might have in making payments through banks due to tough sanctions imposed by US-led international community against top Iranian banks.

"Iran is an important source for our crude petroleum imports. These imports have declined a little, not very much, but a little over the last couple of years, last two years or so," Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao said.

"And… given the sanctions and given the difficulties in operating banking channels vis-a-vis Iran, obviously the volume can`t be expected to go up in such a situation. There may be a further decline. It may well be so," she said.

Rao said India was in touch with the US Government and closely monitoring the developing situation concerning Iran, when asked about the pressure from the US that India needs to reduce its dependency on Iranian oil.

India, she argued, was a responsible country and works with the international community on this issue.

"We abide by the rules. We do not play outside the system on these. But it must be remembered that the Gulf region is terribly important for India," she said, referring to the six million Indians working there.

It`s a source of our energy imports, she added.

Noting that India was basically an energy importing country, Rao referred to the Mangalore refinery which imports Iranian oil.

"So it is going to take time to readjust and too see how we can move away from the old patterns of how we operate on these issues," Rao said.

India is second largest importer of Iranian crude oil after China.