Mnuchin says the United States will consider some waivers of Iran sanctions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States wants to prevent global oil markets from being halted by imposing sanctions on Tehran and, in some cases, considering exemptions for countries that need more time to liquidate their oil imports from the Iran, the United States Finance Minister Steven Mnuchin said.

PHOTO FILE: US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies to the hearing of House Financial Services on the state of the international financial system at Capitol Hill, Washington, 12 July 2018. REUTERS / Joshua Roberts

"We want people to reduce their purchases of oil to zero, but in some cases, if people can not do it from one day to the next, we will consider the exceptions," Mnuchin told reporters on Friday and said some US officials that there would be no exceptions. Mnuchin's comments were suspended for Monday's publication.

Mnuchin spoke with journalists on the way to Mexico, where he was part of a high-level American delegation led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with the next president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

The Trump administration is forcing countries to stop all Iranian oil imports from November onwards, while the US sanctions Tehran after Trump has withdrawn its nuclear deal between Iran and the six major powers, against the opinion of the Allies in Europe and elsewhere.

Mnuchin said he would meet colleagues from developed and developing countries in Buenos Aires on the sidelines of a meeting of G20 finance ministers from 19 to 22 July. US sanctions against Iran are likely to increase in its talks.

"In concrete terms, there are no general exceptions, there is no grandfather," said Mnuchin. "We want to be very careful about managing the energy markets so that people have time."

He added: "The State Department is able to renounce significant reductions in the oil market, which the Treasury and the state will do".

Mnuchin said that Washington has told its allies that they expect them to apply sanctions to Iran, "but if there are specific situations, we are open to listening".

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said that Washington rejected a French request for exemption for its companies operating in Iran over the weekend, according to Le Figaro.

Paris had selected key areas where exceptions or prolonged dismantling periods were planned for French companies, including energy, banks, pharmaceuticals and automobiles.

The Trump administration said there are more than 50 foreign companies that have withdrawn their business from Iran since Trump announced that the United States is coming out of the nuclear deal between Iran and the United States, Germany, France, Great Britain, China and withdraw Russia.

Speaking to journalists on Friday, Pompey said he had discussed US plans to reintroduce sanctions on Iran with "all but one". He did not name the land he had not yet consulted.

"What you asked us is to check how we got there and the timing for this," he said, "and I'm very confident they understand."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech broadcast on Saturday by state television that Washington is more isolated than ever against sanctions against Iran, even among its allies.

His comments seemed to alleviate the popular concerns triggered by Trump's decision to withdraw from the deal with Iran for its nuclear program.

The likely return of US economic sanctions led to a rapid decline in the Iranian currency and the protests of bazaar traders, who were generally loyal to Islamic rulers.

Trump said he had asked Saudi Arabia to increase oil production, if necessary, to ensure global oil supply, and the country has 2 million barrels of unused capacity per day.

The Organization of Oil Exporting Countries has agreed with Russia and other oil allies on June 23 to increase production from July, with Saudi Arabia promising a "measurable" increase in supply, but without specific figures.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

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