US banks on India to bring Iran to N-table

Manmohan terms Gulf nation a close neighbour

Even as Washington claimed to have encouraged New Delhi to lessen its dependence on crude oil supply from Iran, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the West Asian Islamic republic was a “close neighbour” and an “important source of energy” for India.

The European Union on Friday asked India to nudge Iran to return to talks on its controversial nuclear programme, while Singh stressed on diplomacy to resolve the issue.

While the US recently imposed fresh sanctions on Iran, the EU too called for an embargo on all purchases of oil from the country. The new sanctions on Iran made it difficult for India to make payment for the crude oil it imports from Iran.

“We will share, I think, our deep concern on the Iranian nuclear programme, and will ask Prime Minister Singh to use India’s leverage towards Iran to help bring Tehran back to the negotiating table,” European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told journalists in New Delhi.

Singh, Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Durão Barroso were addressing a news-conference after the 12th India-EU summit.

In a joint statement issued after the summit, India and EU reaffirmed their commitment to “diplomacy to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue” and expressed the need for Iran to take “constructive and immediate steps to meet its obligations to the International Atomic Energy Association and the UN Security Council.”

New Delhi officially maintains that it would abide by the sanctions imposed by the United Nations on Iran, but not the ones by the US, EU or individual countries.
Indian refiners, however, are looking for alternative source of crude oil to lessen dependence on the import from Iran.

Tehran and New Delhi recently agreed on a new arrangement for India to make in rupee up to 45 per cent of the total payment for its crude oil import from Iran. They hope that the new mechanism would help partially end the impasse over payment for crude oil export from Iran to India in the aftermath of the fresh US sanctions on the West Asian country.

“There are problems with Iran nuclear programme. We sincerely believe that this issue can be and should be resolved by giving maximum scope to diplomacy,” said Prime Minister, adding that a substantial number of Indians live and work in the Gulf and New Delhi favoured peace and stability in the region.

The US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that Washington was working with countries, including India, to reduce their dependence on oil from Iran in the wake of the fresh sanctions that President Barack Obama signed into law on December 29 last year.

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