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Iran Warns Gasoline Sellers Against Any Supply Cut

Iranians, like this car owner loading fuel illegally into his car in 2007, are no strangers to gas crunches.

Iranians, like this car owner loading fuel illegally into his car in 2007, are no strangers to gas crunches.

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran's oil minister has warned companies that sell gasoline not to halt deliveries to the Islamic Republic in response to Western sanctions moves, saying they would be dropped from its list of suppliers.

The United States and its European allies are exploring ways of targeting fuel imports into Iran if the country continues to press on with its nuclear program.

"If the suppliers of gasoline avoid exporting it to Iran...they will be eliminated from the National Iranian Oil Company's list of suppliers," business daily "Abrar-e Eqtesadi" quoted Oil Minister Massud Mirkazemi as saying.

Iran, the world's fifth-largest crude oil exporter, lacks refining capacity to meet its domestic fuel needs and has to import up to 40 percent of its gasoline requirements.

Iranian officials have repeatedly shrugged off the threat of any sanctions measures targeting its fuel imports, saying the country, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), would be able to find sufficient supplies.

"We have no worries in regards to the supply of gasoline...and we will be purchasing gasoline from any country which provides us with premium gasoline at a reasonable price," Mirkazemi said.

"The possibility of producing 100 percent of the country's gasoline needs currently exists," he said, without giving details."

The West suspects the Islamic state is covertly seeking to develop nuclear weapons, although Iran has vehemently denied it.

While the main oil giants would probably halt supplies to Iran if the United States set new sanctions, China, Malaysia and Russia have stepped into a gap left by India's Reliance and British company BP, which have stopped supplying fuel to Iran.

According to industry sources, oil companies that have supplied fuel to Iran in the last few months include Royal Dutch Shell; Totsa, a unit of Total SA; Vitol, an independent company; Glencore International; Litasco, the trading arm of Russia's LUKOIL; state-run Chinese company Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp.

Domestic gasoline consumption in Iran has risen about six percent per year, despite two years of a rationing scheme to limit consumption, a top official from the National Iranian Oil Company said in May.

Iran's deputy oil minister in charge of planning, Ebrahim Radafzun, said in published remarks on October 6 that it would need an additional $6.5 billion to help pay for imports of gasoline and diesel fuel during the 2009-10 budget year.