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Japan Buys Less Oil from Iran, Saudis Fill the Gap: The Status of Black Gold Deteriorates

By Shirin Karimi, Rooz Online

While the most industrialized country in south East Asia has reduced half of its oil purchases from the Islamic republic, OPEC statistics reveal that Saudi Arabia has filled the gap of Iran's share in the market. This situation has coincided with the damage caused by the Flame virus to Iran's computer systems handling the country's oil exports, something that Iran's civil defense chief finally confirmed.

These days, Iran's oil exports are not to the liking of the country's rulers. This can be grasped by looking at the statistics regarding Iran's oil sale to Japan. According to the latest figures published yesterday, the fourth customer of Iran's oil, Japan, reduced its oil purchases from Iran last month by 65 percent. Japan's imports from Iran stood at 110,000 barrels\day in April compared to 300,000 barrels\day in March.

The Islamic republic has repeatedly claimed that its oil share in the market is not replaceable by anyone and that any drop in the country's sales would result in higher energy prices. But Saudi Arabia has stepped in now to disappoint Iranian rulers in this regard.

Observers see a direct link between the drop in Iran's oil exports and the rise in Saudi oil exports. According to OPEC figures, last winter Saudi Arabia increased its oil production by 250,000 barrels/day compared to the previous year. Iran in the same period had a drop of 300,000 barrels\day in its production. Commentators have said that since the tanker war between Iran, Iraq and the US during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, this reduction in Iran's oil production volume is the most significant drop in the last two decades.

Tehran's Anger with the Saudis

Saudi Arabia's measures in the oil market have angered Iranian officials and prompted Iran's representative at the OPEC Mohammad Ali Khatibi to slam Al Saud's oil policies and claim that the increase in oil production by some OPEC members and particularly Saudi Arabia would result in price instability in world oil markets.

The International Energy Agency earlier had announced that Iran was unable to sell 15 to 25 percent of its oil to its former customers. It said that between 450 thousand to 750 thousand barrels of oil were kept on tankers because Iran could not find customers for them.

Iran's oil minister, former Revolutionary Guards commander Rostam Ghasemi however denied this and said the country had no difficulty in exporting its oil.

Last winter, Ali al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister had promised that his country was prepared to increase its oil production to replace a possible drop in Iran's exports.

But oil issues and loss of customers are not the only preoccupations of Iranian rulers. Unofficial reports indicate a new wave of cyber attacks on the country's oil computers, by a program called Flame, which has resulted in the shutdowns of some systems. A month after this attack the head of Iran's civil defense organization confirmed the malware attacks and said that they had damaged the ministry of oil's facilities.

... Payvand News - 06/08/12 ... --

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