The other five countries that have got relief from America include a surprise entry, China, with which the Donald Trump administration is still negotiating the terms
Washington: In a major relief to India, the US has agreed to let India and seven other countries keep buying Iranian oil after it reimposes sanctions on the OPEC producer, a senior administration official said.
This would mean that Indian oil companies can continue to import about 1.25 million tonnes of oil a month till March from Tehran, sources said. The other seven countries include Japan and South Korea.
China — the leading importer of Iranian oil — is still in discussions with the US on terms, but is among the eight, sources added. The other four countries that will get waivers weren't identified.
While the Trump administration's goal remains to choke off revenue to Iran's economy, waivers are being granted in exchange for continued import cuts so as not to drive up oil prices, said the official, who asked not to be identified before Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announces the number of exemptions later on Friday.
Global benchmark Brent crude has fallen about 15% from over $85 a barrel last month on increasing speculation that at least some nations will get waivers, as well as signs that other OPEC members will pump more to offset any supply gap. Oil futures were at $73.04 a barrel at 7:12 a.m. in London on Friday.
The waivers are only temporary, and the US will expect countries that get them to keep cutting Iranian imports in the months ahead, according to the US administration official, who declined to give details on the volume of oil the nations will be allowed to buy under the exemptions.
The identity of the countries getting waivers is expected to be released officially on Monday, when US restrictions against oil dealings with Iran go back into effect.
The Trump administration has asked that those nations also cut other economic ties with the Persian Gulf state, such as by reducing trade in goods that aren't covered by the sanctions, the official said.
The impending oil sanctions have been a U.S. tool to pressure Iran in the six months since President Donald Trump backed out of the 2015 nuclear deal between the Middle East nation and six world powers, saying it didn't do enough to constrain the Islamic Republic's nuclear program or curb what the U.S. calls other "malign activity" in the region.
The US move infuriated Iran and angered the other countries that negotiated the nuclear deal and still say it's the best chance to constrain the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions.
The Trump administration has rebuffed them and gone ahead with its sanctions plan, arguing that nations, banks and businesses worldwide will decide they'd rather do business with the U.S. than Iran and leave the market.
Already, through its pressure campaign, the U.S. has managed to reduce Iran's oil exports from 2.7 million to 1.6 million barrels a month, according to internal U.S. estimates.
That's symbolically important to the Trump administration because President Barack Obama's administration took three years to remove 1.2 million barrels from the market -- and that was while acting in concert with the European Union and other nations before the international effort yielded the 2015 deal.
(With agency inputs)
Last Updated 2:37 PM IST