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US State Department reiterates zero tolerance on Iran oil sanctions

Washington — The US State Department still aims to target all imports of Iranian oil purchased after sanctions waivers expired this month, a top official said late Thursday, seeking to clarify his earlier comments that indicated softer enforcement.

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"Our firm policy is to completely zero out purchases of Iranian oil. Period," Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said in a statement.

Hook said countries could complete any imports of oil "purchased, loaded and en route to its destination" before their significant reduction exceptions expired May 2.

But any purchases initiated after the waivers expired "will be subject to US sanctions, even if a country had not met its previously negotiated purchase caps during the SRE period from November to May 2," Hook added.

Hook's comments earlier Thursday during a telephone briefing seemed to indicate that the State Department had reached new agreements with Iran's oil buyers to allow some imports after May.

"I think nations know that if there are efforts to import Iranian crude oil beyond the accepted levels that were negotiated back from November through May, that they will be sanctioned," he said in the earlier briefing.

The remarks sent crude futures lower and puzzled analysts who have closely followed the Trump administration's reimposition of Iran oil sanctions.

July ICE Brent fell $2.58 to settle at $66.87/b, while July NYMEX crude fell $2.22 to settle at $56.59/b.

S&P Global Platts Analytics forecast Iranian crude and condensate exports to fall below 500,000 b/d in the second half of this year, which will be significantly down from 1.3 million b/d in Q1 2019.

-- Meghan Gordon,

-- Jeff Mower,

-- Edited by Pankti Mehta,