TEHRAN: Iran needs to be able to wean itself off its dependence on selling oil abroad, its two top leaders have said, as the country faces the impact of EU and US sanctions on its crude exports.
"We should move towards stopping crude exports. This is doable," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday as inaugurated a new Tehran refinery, the official IRNA news agency reported.
He added that Iran should instead develop more refineries for domestic petrol consumption, and eventually export some refined products in the same way it currently sells limited amounts of petrol to Afghanistan, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Armenia.
Ahmadinejad's comments about curbing oil exports reinforced a message issued on Sunday by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who called Iran's reliance on crude exports a "trap" inherited from before the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Khamenei has ordered Iran to establish a "resistance economy" marked by greater self-reliance and oriented towards building knowledge and skills.
The United States and Europe have imposed increasingly severe economic sanctions on Iran to pressure it to roll back its disputed nuclear programme.
Before an EU embargo on Iran oil that came into effect on July 1, Iran exported around 2.5 million barrels of oil per day.
That has since been sharply reduced, with the International Energy Agency estimating Iran may only be able to sell around 1.5 million barrels per day.
OPEC says Iran is pumping close to three million barrels per day, and the IEA and other observers say much of the unsold export oil is being stored in tankers anchored off-shore, and in saturated on-shore facilities.