Iran Foreign Minister to visit India amid oil row

Monday, 25 July 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

TEHRAN (Reuters): Iran’s Foreign Minister will visit India in the coming weeks, news agency ISNA quoted an official on Saturday as saying, as the two countries seek a way of ending a standoff over unmet payments for oil exports.

Ali Akbar Salehi will hold talks with his Indian counterpart on bilateral and international issues, Mehdi Nabizadeh, Iran’s ambassador to India, told ISNA.

“(Salehi) will travel to India within the next two months and we hope by that time the problem is resolved for good,” he said.

Iran, facing increased isolation internationally, and energy-hungry India have been looking to resolve an impasse triggered in December when the Reserve Bank of India ended a regional clearing mechanism for trade payments to Iran.

That move won praise from Washington, which is using sanctions in a bid to get Tehran to halt its nuclear programme.

New Delhi imports 400,000 barrels of crude per day from Iran -- 12 percent of its oil demand.

The collective debt to Iran of Indian importers including BPCL, IOC, HPCL and Essar has risen to more than $5 billion during the impasse.

Asked about pressure for action from Iran’s parliament, Nabizadeh said the foreign ministry was on the case, but the final arbiters would be the countries’ central banks.

Indian firms have parked some money with the central bank to pay for supplies, Indian Oil Secretary G.C. Chaturvedi said on Friday.

In a letter dated June 27, Iran said it would halt crude exports to India on Aug. 1 if the situation was not resolved.

Earlier this week a senior oil ministry official said Iran had not as yet decided whether halt exports.