TEHRAN, Iran: An official says Iran has set up a private oil export group in an attempt to bypass a European ban on buying Iranian oil.
The ban is part of Western sanctions aimed at pressuring Iran over its nuclear program.
Hasan Khosrowjerdi, head of the Iranian oil products exporters union, said Monday the first contract for exporting Iran's crude through the private sector will be signed next week.
Formation of the private group is the latest sign that the sanctions are taking a toll on Iran. The West suspects Iran is aiming to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies that.
It was not immediately clear whether routing oil through the private group would allow it to be sold in Europe. The EU has accounted for 18 percent of Iran's total crude exports.