EU states to assure Greece on Iran oil ban

Fri Jan 20, 2012 4:27pm GMT

BRUSSELS Jan 20 (Reuters) - EU foreign ministers will assure Greece on Monday that it will still be able to buy oil on reasonable terms after the introduction of a planned EU ban on Iranian crude, a senior Brussels official said.

But he added that ministers, who plan to announce the embargo at a meeting on Monday, will not come out with a detailed plan that same day on how to maintain supplies to Greece, which sources around 23 percent of crude imports from Iran.

Growing Western pressure on countries not to buy Iranian crude has led Tehran to drop its normal demand for financial guarantees from the cash-strapped Greeks. Athens' dependence on these favourable financing terms has been the main sticking point as the EU draws up an embargo to pressure Tehran over its nuclear programme.

"The financial situation of Greece at the moment is not the brightest one, and rightly they are asking us to help them find a solution," a senior EU official told reporters on Friday.

"We have to find a way on Monday to give all the assurances and commitments that will allow Greece to say 'okay'."

The problem shows how the euro zone financial crisis is complicating the bloc's non-financial policies. Greece is currently trying to get international creditors to agree to a debt swap plan in order to avoid a disorderly bankruptcy.

Other oil exporters are unlikely to accept terms as advantageous as the Iranians have offered Greece - even if it has so far paid for imports on time, the official said.

"Of course it will be more difficult with alternative suppliers because of the present financial situation in Greece," the official said. "They will ask for some guarantees."

The West alleges that Tehran is developing nuclear weapons - something Tehran denies, saying its nuclear programme is only for electricity generation and medical applications.   Continued...

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