India's Reliance Industries has stopped petrol exports to Iran as the US Senate considers a new law aimed at restricting the Islamic republic's supply of fuel. Reliance, which is India's biggest private-sector oil company, halted the sales last month to avoid possible restrictions on sales of its fuel to the US market, The Economic Times reported, citing unidentified company officials.
The move followed the introduction of a bill into the US Senate in April proposing a law that would grant the administration of president Barack Obama the power to ban any company selling petrol to Iran from operating in the US market. The 25 backers of the proposal hoped the measure would pressure Tehran into changing course on its nuclear policy, which Washington has alleged is linked to a covert nuclear weapons programme.
Reliance was among four companies specifically named by Evan Bayh, a Democrat senator from Indiana who is a leading sponsor of the US bill, as firms that do business in the US while benefitting from petrol sales to Iran. The other companies, all based in Europe, were BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Vitol. The state-owned National Iranian Oil Company declined to comment on whether Reliance had stopped the exports and said Iran had other suppliers.
"No one should think that it is an international relations issue. We don't have just one source of supply for any oil product," Hojatollah Ghanimifard, the company's vice president for investment affairs, told Reuters Sunday. Iran's semi-official Press TV quoted a Reliance official as saying the suspension of petrol exports would be temporary. Iran is the world's fourth-largest oil exporter but lacks sufficient refining capacity to meet domestic demand for fuel such as petrol. It imported about 128,000 barrels per day of petrol last month and has been building its inventories since the end of last year.