Athens seeks assurances over Iran oil embargo

Greece is seeking assurances that a potential European Union embargo on oil imports from Iran will not push the Greek economy over the brink by forcing it to seek higher-cost oil elsewhere, said a European diplomat with knowledge of the matter.

Greece, which bought 14 percent of its imported oil from Iran in the first half of 2011, wants the EU to ensure that any new oil contracts would include terms similar to those in its existing agreements with Iran, which does not require financial guarantees, the diplomat said on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private. EU foreign ministers will discuss additional sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

They may reach a political decision to impose an oil embargo, with further work to alleviate Greece?s concerns in the weeks that follow, the diplomat said.

A meeting of EU diplomats on Thursday in Brussels left it to foreign ministers to determine the timing of the oil ban, which would include an exemption for existing contracts to enable countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain to find alternative supplies.

The three countries accounted for about 68 percent of EU imports from Iran in 2010, European Commission data show.

Greece stuck to its demand of an eight-month delay at Thursday?s meeting, according to a European official informed about the talks, who asked not to be identified.

Talks on the ban will continue through the weekend, another EU official said. Any decision to impose an embargo would have to be unanimous. [Bloomberg]

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