DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Tehran would continue to bypass sanctions after the United States penalised a number of companies for violating sanctions imposed on Iran, mostly in connection with its nuclear programme.
On Friday, the United States imposed a fresh round of curbs on a number of Iranian and foreign companies, banks and airlines. The new measures came just over two weeks before talks between Iran and six world powers on Tehran's nuclear programme resume in New York.
Washington said the firms were helping Iran's nuclear programme, which Tehran says is peaceful but the West suspects may be aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability. They included Goldentex FZE, a UAE-based firm working with Iran's shipping sector, and an Italian firm, Dettin SpA, which it said was working with Iran's petrochemical industry.
"The sanctions are cruel and illegal and we fulfil our duty for circumventing the sanctions," Zanganeh was cited as saying by the oil ministry's news website Shana.
"We do not recognise the sanctions," he said, referring to Friday's new curbs.
Western sanctions imposed on Iran to hamper its nuclear programme have blocked sales of its oil to the West and made it increasingly difficult for Iran's fleet to obtain insurance and financing for deals with Asian buyers.
Despite that, Iran shipped 29.4 percent more crude to major Asian customers in July from a year earlier, with China, Tehran's biggest client, accounting for most of the increase.
In the past, Iranian oil tankers sent incorrect satellite signals to confuse global tracking systems and Iranian state tanker company NITC changed tanker names in response to the sanctions.
Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia failed to meet a July 20 deadline to negotiate a comprehensive agreement under which Tehran would scale back its nuclear activities in exchange for gradually ending the sanctions that have crippled its economy.
The new deadline was extended to Nov. 24. Iran and the six world powers are set to resume negotiations in mid-September around the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.
Western diplomats say the two sides remain far apart on the future size of Iran's uranium enrichment programme, activity which can have both civilian and military uses.
Jofi Joseph, a former director for non-proliferation on the White House National Security Council, said that the new sanctions "could be a message to Tehran that, unless it shifts course, these most recent designations are only a preview of what is to come if the talks break down."
Reporting by Michelle Moghtader in Dubai; Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Editing by Rania El Gamal and Raissa Kasolowsky