The United States in certain cases will consider waivers for countries that need more time to wind down imports of oil from Iran as it seeks to avoid disrupting global oil markets while reimposing sanctions against Tehran, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
"We want people to reduce oil purchases to zero, but in certain cases, if people can't do that overnight, we'll consider exceptions," Mnuchin told reporters on Friday, clarifying some US officials' comments that there would be no exemptions. Mnuchin's comments were embargoed for release on Monday as other US officials were expected to begin talks in India this week on cutbacks in Iranian oil supplies.
Mnuchin spoke to reporters while en route from Mexico, where he was part of a high-level US delegation led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet Mexico's next president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
The Trump administration is pushing countries to cut all imports of Iranian oil from November, when the United States reimposes sanctions against Tehran. Trump withdrew from the multi-national 2015 Iran nuclear deal against the advice of allies in Europe and elsewhere.
A delegation from the US State Department and US Treasury are expected for talks in Delhi this week to discuss Iran sanctions, according to Indian officials. US crude oil exports to India hit a record in June as Indian refiners moved to replace supplies from Iran and Venezuela.
Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston, said India was expected to ask the United States to ensure adequate global oil supplies as Washington presses countries to cut back on Iran oil.
"That might include pressure to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which the administration indicated they were considering on Friday," said Lipow.
"To put things in context, if we were to look at Iran in total, it's exporting roughly 2.2 million barrels a day of sales, of which half is going to both China and India," he said. "It's very important for the US to get India on board with the sanctions policy."