'India has substantially reduced oil imports from Iran'

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Washington, April 22 (IANS) In the face of US sanctions on Iran, India has significantly reduced its oil imports from the country, though rising oil prices have caused immense problems for the Indian economy, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said here Sunday.

India was currently buying about 14 million tonnes of crude from Iran, he said, "though in terms of percentage it has been reduced substantially, because currently our import is roughly about 160-170 million tonnes."

"When our import was about 100 million tonnes then Iran used to contribute 20-21 million tonnes," said Mukherjee who met his Iranian counterpart Shamseddin Hosseini Saturday on the sidelines of the just concluded IMF and World Bank spring meetings.

However, no details of the meeting were immediately available.

"Of course, the high price of oil has caused immense problems for the Indian economy," Mukherjee said, noting that while presenting the budget last year the government subsidies had been worked out on the assumption that the average oil price would be $90-95 per barrel.

"But actually we have to pay the average price of $100-115 per barrel," Mukherjee said. "So naturally, I have to absorb it and the quantum of subsidy has increased substantially."

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)