Insiders: Iran, Russia Close to Oil-Swap Pact Worth Billions

April 3, 2014, 5 a.m.

Ir­an and Rus­sia are gain­ing trac­tion to­ward a po­ten­tial mult­i­bil­lion-dol­lar oil pact that may light­en pres­sure on Tehran in nuc­le­ar talks, Re­u­ters re­ports.

Rus­sia could ex­change non­mon­et­ary goods for up to 500,000 bar­rels of Ir­a­ni­an pet­ro­leum each day un­der the pos­sible ar­range­ment, which may ul­ti­mately pave the way for as much as $20 bil­lion in trade, in­siders told the news agency for a Wed­nes­day re­port. The un­con­firmed claims came as Ir­an pur­sued talks with six world powers on po­ten­tially ac­cept­ing long-term re­stric­tions on its dis­puted nuc­le­ar activ­it­ies in re­turn for re­lief from in­ter­na­tion­al sanc­tions.

One ex­pert on pun­it­ive eco­nom­ic meas­ures said the pet­ro­leum plan “would ease fur­ther pres­sure on Ir­an’s battered en­ergy sec­tor.”

“If Wash­ing­ton can’t stop this deal, it could serve as a sig­nal to oth­er coun­tries that the United States won’t risk ma­jor dip­lo­mat­ic dis­putes at the ex­pense of the sanc­tions re­gime,” ac­cord­ing to Mark Dubowitz, who heads the Found­a­tion for De­fense of Demo­cra­cies. Wash­ing­ton and its al­lies hope such pen­al­ties will en­cour­age Tehran to clear up glob­al fears that its atom­ic activ­it­ies are secretly aimed at es­tab­lish­ing a nuc­le­ar-bomb ca­pa­city.

The U.S. State De­part­ment on Wed­nes­day said it could not veri­fy wheth­er Tehran and Mo­scow had achieved mo­mentum in the oil-swap talks, but spokes­wo­man Mare Harf said any res­ult­ing pact would be “in­con­sist­ent” with an in­ter­im atom­ic ac­cord fi­nal­ized in Novem­ber. Harf also re­af­firmed Wash­ing­ton’s will­ing­ness to con­sider pen­al­iz­ing be­ne­fi­ciar­ies of the pos­sible Ir­a­ni­an-Rus­si­an ar­range­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to one Ir­a­ni­an in­sider, the pos­sible pact would call for Mo­scow to sup­ply Tehran with mis­siles, as well as help in con­struct­ing two new atom­ic fa­cil­it­ies.

Mean­while, spe­cial­ists from Tehran were set on Thursday to be­gin four days of tech­nic­al nuc­le­ar dis­cus­sions with coun­ter­parts from China, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia, the United King­dom and the United States, Ir­an’s Fars News Agency re­por­ted.

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