Athens seeks to replace Iranian oil with two sources

Greece is planning to replace imports of Iranian oil with purchases from two other sources before the European Union embargo on crude and petroleum products from the Persian Gulf nation takes effect on July 1.

Talks are continuing and ?the problem? for Greece is ?purely an issue of financing,? Energy Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Athens on Friday.

The EU agreed to grant a five-month phase-in period when it decided in January to ban oil from Iran in order to give countries such as debt-ridden Greece that are relatively dependent on Iranian crude time to find alternative supplies.

?It?s to get the kind of credit facilities that allow this diversification to take place in a manner that will not disrupt our energy supply,? Papaconstantinou said. ?We?re not there yet, completely, and in that sense we?re in very close contact with the European Commission and our European partners to find solutions if a problem arises.?

European nations together bought a total of 22.4 million tons of oil from Iran in the first nine months of last year, accounting for 5.8 percent of the bloc?s crude imports, according to EU data. Greece ranked first, with purchases of 4.14 million tons from Iran, or 34 percent of its oil imports.

?We are diversifying away from Iranian oil to find two other sources,? Papaconstantinou said. ?I can?t say which sources because this is a commercial issue, but we all know the main sources of oil in the region.?

European governments are keeping Greece?s role in the oil embargo under review as the Greek government seeks alternative sources of supply, an EU official told reporters in Brussels last month.

The bloc?s foreign ministers are next scheduled to meet on May 14. [Bloomberg]