American oil companies were informed last month that Washington was easing a 1987 ban on trade with Iran to allow the import of Iranian crude oil, but none has bought oil as a result of the new policy, U.S. officials said today.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy confirmed a report in Platt’s Week, an oil industry newsletter, that the change authorized by President Bush was made to replenish Iran’s account at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in The Hague, which is used to pay claims against Iran.
Since the relaxation of the ban, U.S. oil firms can ask to import Iranian oil on a case-by-case basis and send payment to Iran’s escrow account at the tribunal, according to embassy spokesman Leonardo Williams. They are still barred from paying money directly to Iran.
The tribunal, set up in 1981 as part of a deal that freed 52 American hostages held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran after the fall of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, arbitrates financial disputes between the two countries arising from the 1979 Iranian Revolution. So far, about $3 billion has changed hands in settlements.
“The change in policy has not yet resulted in any payments into the escrow account,” a U.S. official told Reuters.