Iran is in talks with at least three buyers in Asia to sell them more crude oil if sanctions on the Middle Eastern country are lifted, according to four people with direct knowledge of the discussions.
State-owned National Iranian Oil Company is talking with the buyers and hasn't yet specified how much additional crude it might offer them, said the people who asked not to be identified because the conversations are confidential. A spokeswoman for Iran's Oil Ministry wasn't able to comment immediately.
The United States and five other global powers are negotiating with Iran to end a decade-long dispute over its nuclear programme in return for removing sanctions that have cut its crude exports. Overseas crude shipments averaged 1.3 million barrels a day last year, or 1.2 million barrels a day below pre-sanction levels, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
"They are obviously very determined to come flying out of the starting blocks should negotiations result in a lifting of sanctions," said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Copenhagen-based Saxo Bank. "Imagine a million barrels extra crude from Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec)."
Brent for April settlement added 15 cents to $ 57.23 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange Singapore time.
The benchmark grade for more than half of the world's crude fell 48 percent last year amid a surge in supply of North American shale oil and the refusal by the Opec to cut production. Oil rebounded this year as growth in US drilling slowed. Brent climbed 18 per cent in February, the first gain in eight months.
US and European Union sanctions restrict the amount of Iranian crude refineries can buy. EU fuel processors are forbidden from buying any Iranian oil, while US restrictions allow for China, Japan, India, South Korea, Turkey and Taiwan to purchase limited amounts of the crude.
Iran could increase output by 800,000 barrels a day to its full capacity of 3.6 million a day within three months, the IEA estimated on February 10. Production dropped from 3.8 million barrels a day in March 2010 to 2.8 million now, according to data.
The US, UK, Germany, France, Russia and China make up the P5+1 group holding the nuclear negotiations with Iran. The US and its allies are seeking to prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon. Iran, which said it isn't trying to build a bomb, has said it needs to enrich uranium for its civilian nuclear reactor in Bushehr. The parties have set a deadline of the end of March to reach a political agreement outlining a deal and plan to reach a final accord by the end of June.
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