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Iran's Rouhani threatens to block Hormuz Strait if US tightens oil sanctions

Vienna — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday threatened to block all oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if the US tightens sanctions that squeeze Iran's exports down to zero.

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"The US should know that we are selling our oil ... and it is not able to stop Iran's oil exports," Rouhani said, according to a report in state-owned news service IRNA. "And it should know if it intends to block our oil someday, no oil will be exported through the Persian Gulf."

The Strait of Hormuz is the world's busiest oil chokepoint at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. About 18.5 million b/d of crude and refined products, about 30% of all seaborne oil exports, transited the 21-mile wide channel in 2016, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Rouhani made a similar threat in July, in response to US calls to stop Iran's oil exports completely.

The US reimposed sanctions targeting Iran's oil sales on November 5, but has issued waivers to eight countries to continue their purchases through May 4.

A senior US State Department official said Monday that sanctions have already cut Iranian exports by more than 1 million b/d.

Loadings had averaged 2.4 million b/d from November 2017 through April 2018, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics, which expects them to stay at around 1 million b/d by the next US sanctions deadline in May.

"You will see further decreases in Iranian imports in the coming months," said Brian Hook, the State Department?s special representative for Iran.

-- Staff, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Irene Tang, irene.tang@spglobal.com