Sanctions on Iran: Lanka seeks US help

By Anthony David

Sri Lanka has appealed to the United States for exemption from its sanctions on Iran saying it will badly hurt the economy, a senior Cabinet Minister said yesterday. “We have asked the US for concessions or help to find alternative sources of supply,” Petroleum Minister Susil Premajayantha told the Sunday Times.

He said that during talks with the visiting US Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Luke Bronin, Ministry Secretary R.H.S. Samarasinghe explained the problems the government would face when the sanctions took effect. The Secretary had pointed out to Mr. Bronin that Sri Lanka only accounted for two per cent of Iran’s oil exports though it constituted 93 per cent of Sri Lanka’s requirements.
Other government sources said yesterday that the US had granted exemptions from sanctions on at least 10,000 instances over the past decade.

Mr. Premajayantha said that the import from Iran, which offers Sri Lanka a four-month credit facility, constituted 30 per cent of crude oil and 70 per cent refined oil products. He said if no concessions were granted to Sri Lanka, the US sanctions would begin to bite into the economy from June this year. The Minister said the government was also looking at other crude oil suppliers such as Oman.

A bigger danger of the US sanctions, he pointed out, would be the slowing down or stoppage of work at the Sapugaskande refinery. “We are doing our best to avoid this situation by looking for other sources,” he said.

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