US talks with India, China, Turkey on Iranian oil

Washington: The US is having "very intense and very blunt" conversations with India, China and Turkey on reducing their dependence on Iranian oil in a bid to bolster American sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear programme, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said.

Clinton, testifying before a Congressional committee yesterday, said the US is asking these countries to take specific measures that would reduce their dependence on Iranian oil. But, without naming any one, she did acknowledge that this would be a bit tough for some countries.

"With respect to China and Turkey and India, we`ve had very intense and very blunt conversations with each of those countries. I think that there are a number of steps that we are pointing out to them that we believe they can and should make," Clinton said while responding to questions from Senator Robert Menendez.

Both India and China, two major buyers of Iranian oil accounting for 12 and 22 per cent of its total export respectively, have said they will continue to import fuel from Tehran despite the EU and US embargo. Turkey has also said it will continue to import oil from Iran.

"In a number of cases, both on their government side and on their business side, they are taking actions that go further and deeper than perhaps their public statements might lead you to believe," Clinton said.

"We are going to continue to keep an absolute foot on the pedal in terms of our accelerated, aggressive outreach to them. And they are looking for ways to make up the lost revenues, the lost crude oil," she said.

"That`s a difficulty for a lot of these countries, not just the ones you mentioned. So we`ve had to put together an entire team to try to assist them in thinking through ways of doing that," Clinton said. .

"Our expectation and the direction we are giving to countries is that we do expect to see significant reductions.

I am pleased to report, Senator, that we`ve been aggressively reaching out to and working with countries to assist them in being able to make such significant reductions," Clinton said.

"You know, for some countries, it`s a lot harder than other countries. So we have really come in with a lot of suggestions to help them be able to do what we`re asking them to do," she said.

Earlier in the day, testifying before the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Clinton told Senators the US is aggressively pursuing sanctions against Iran.

"We are implementing the new Iran sanctions aggressively.

The President issued an executive order on February 6 that blocks assets under US jurisdiction of all Iranian banks; also makes it clear that both the Departments of Treasury and State are expected to enforce the sanctions absolutely," she said.

"We have been traveling the world, high-level teams from Treasury, Energy and State, to explain what the sanctions are to counterparts around the world. We`re very frank in these discussions about the requirements of US law. We have seen a lot of action. A broad range of countries are making decisions to reduce their dependence on Iranian crude, unwind their dealings with the central bank of Iran," Clinton said.

"We are also pushing very hard to make it clear that we`ll help countries that have a significant dependence on Iranian crude to try to find alternatives. It is something that they have to look for. They can`t just stop cold Turkey and not have anything fueling their economies," Clinton said.

"Some of our friends who are major producers have set forth their willingness to try to make up the difference. So we`ve had a positive reaction," she said and referred to the steps being taken by the European Union and Japan.