Clinton urges India to go further in reducing Iranian oil imports

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C) leaves the Taj Hotel in Kolkata on May 7, 2012.

Story highlights

  • Hillary Clinton urges New Delhi to reduce its imports of Iranian oil further
  • Western countries are putting economic pressure on Iran
  • They hope that this will lead to a halt in Tehran's nuclear program

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday applauded India's efforts to reduce its imports of Iranian oil but urged it to cut them further to keep pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.

"We think India as a country understands the importance of trying to use diplomacy to resolve these difficult threats and is certainly working toward lowering their purchases of Iranian oil," Clinton said in Kolkata, the first stop on her visit to India. "We commend the steps they've taken thus far and hope they will do even more."

The United States and other Western countries are using economic pressure on Iran, particularly on its oil industry, to try to push Tehran into halting its nuclear program.

They have encouraged Asian countries like India, Japan and South Korea -- key consumers of Iranian oil -- to cut back their purchases.

U.S. officials say India has lowered the amount of oil it buys from Iran in recent months. But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government is also wrestling with stubbornly high inflation and is wary of provoking upward pressure on prices.

India imports about 70% of the oil it uses, with around 10% to 14% estimated to come from Iran.

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Clinton said Monday that there was an "adequate" supply of oil "in the marketplace."

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Key world powers met with Iran earlier this month about its intentions for its nuclear program and announced that the next meeting would take place in late May. Iran maintains it is not planning to build a bomb.

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But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has cautioned that he doesn't think the economic sanctions are having an effect.

Clinton argued in favor of the current approach on Monday.

"We do not believe Iran would have come to the table if there had not been sanctions and pressure," Clinton said Monday. "We do not believe Iran will peacefully resolve this unless the pressure continues."

She made the comments before she traveled to New Delhi, where she is met with Singh and other top officials.

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