Sanctions on India over Iran? US says reports highly speculative (Lead)

March 16th, 2012 - 7:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, March 16 (IANS) Describing media reports that America has threatened India with sanctions if it does not reduce its Iranian oil imports by June-end as “highly speculative”, US officials said Washington and New Delhi are having “productive conversations” on the issue,

“Recent headlines on India and Iran have been highly speculative,” a US government official said referring to a Bloomberg report citing unnamed Obama administration officials that President Barack Obama may be forced to impose sanctions on New Delhi.

“No decisions have been made and we continue to have productive conversations with India on this important issue, both in New Delhi and in Washington,” he said.

“We welcome statements from Indian officials that India is seeking to diversify its crude oil sourcing and encourage this positive trend.”

A State Department spokesman welcomed statements from Indian officials that India is seeking to diversify its crude oil sourcing saying, “We view India’s efforts to reduce its dependence on Iranian oil positively.”

“We welcome this trend and encourage it to continue,” he said. “India continues to be a valued partner in our common objective of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

Commenting on the reports about possible US sanctions on India if it doesn’t reduce imports of oil from Iran, the Wall Street Journal said Friday, “this is extremely unlikely.”

This was so because “India is already complying with the US’s latest push to squeeze Iran financially to get it to drop its nuclear programme,” it said.

Last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told US Congress that India was doing more behind the scenes to comply with efforts to hurt Iran financially than its public pronouncements would suggest, it noted.

The US “is unlikely to want to cause a rift with India, a country that Washington views as a crucial strategic partner in the region,” the Journal said noting that administration officials have indicated the US does not want to implement sanctions in a way that hurts its allies.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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