Clear $6.5bn oil dues in 2 months, Iran tells India

NEW DELHI (TIP): Iran has asked India to pay within two months $6.5 billion in past oil dues, partly in rupees and rest in dollars or euros, a top official said.

“The payment will be in at least three installments. The modalities of installments and the route are being worked out,” he said.

The dues to Iran on crude oil that refiners buy have accumulated as Western sanctions blocked payment routes since 2013. About 45% of the oil import bill is paid in rupees in a Uco Bank branch and the rest has accumulated.

The official said the payment to Iran can be either through Reserve Bank of India (RBI) – in that case refiners will hand over the money to the central bank which will then do the onward transmission to Iran, or through a gateway notified by the government. Iran will open a new account with one of the Indian banks for receipt of the rupee payment.

Iran will use the rupee payments to settle bills for goods and commodities it imports from India. The official said the new account will be different from the Uco Bank account which is a non-interest bearing account.

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“They want the payments to be made to an interest-bearing account.”

Since February 2013, refiners like Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals (MRPL) and Essar Oil have been paying 45%of payment due on purchase of crude oil from Iran in rupees through Uco Bank, Kolkata. The remaining has been accumulating, pending finalization of a payment route and mechanism. They had last year paid nearly $3 billion in six installments through a limited payment channel following start of nuclear talks between the West and Iran. The outstanding has since climbed to over $6.5 billion.

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