Iran cuts off crude oil exports to Britain and France

 Iran's Ministry of Petroleum said Sunday the country has stopped the sale of crude oil to Britain and France in an apparent retaliatory act for those countries' ban on Iranian oil.

"Following the official decision by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Petrol has ceased its sales of oil to British and French companies," said an Iranian government spokesperson as quoted in Le Monde. "We have panned to deliver our oil to other clients."

According to the Wall Street Journal, the move is likely to have little impact on both countries as British companies do not import Iranian oil and the French oil giant, Total, recently halted its business in Iran.

The EU embargo on Iranian oil, which is set to take full effect this summer, was put in place to pressure Tehran to drop what most believe is the start of a nascent nuclear program, a charge which Iran has consistently denied.

In anticipation of the EU ban and the Iranian retaliation, many European oil companies have scaled back their imports of Iranian crude.

Among European nations, debt-ridden Greece is most exposed to an Iranian oil disruption, according to the National Post, a situation that has forced Greek oil companies to sharply reduce their reliance on Iran's crude.

The National Post reported that, by January imports of Iranian crude oil had sunk to about 650,000 bpd, with companies preparing for the standoff between Iran and the West.

Saudi Arabia has said that it would be prepared to increase production to make up for lost Iranian crude on world markets.

The EU accounts for about 18 percent of Iran's crude exports with most of Iran's oil exported to China and India.

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