London: Iran?s crude shipments in February were the highest since the imposition of sanctions and more than a limit agreed with Western powers in an interim nuclear deal, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

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The country shipped 1.65 million barrels a day to importing countries in February, the highest level since June 2012, the IEA said. March shipments, estimated to have fallen to 1.05 million barrels a day, ?will likely be revised upwards closer to February levels upon receipt of more complete data,? the Agency said.

?Imports of Iranian oil are running well above 2013 levels for the third consecutive month? and could remain high in April, the Paris-based adviser to 28 nations said in its monthly oil market report. Under the interim nuclear deal agreed in November, ?Iran?s exports are supposed to be held at an average one million barrels a day for the six months to end-July,? it said.

Iranian oil production plunged by a million barrels a day, or 28 per cent, from 2011 to 2013 after the US and European Union banned imports of oil from the country and imposed financial sanctions. An interim accord easing restrictions on insurance for Iran?s oil shipments and freeing up cash held outside the country went into effect in January, in return for a suspension of some parts of the country?s nuclear programme.

Crude shipments from Iran will probably average above 1.2 million barrels a day over the six month period of sanctions relief, Richard Mallinson, geopolitical analyst at Energy Aspects, said by phone yesterday from London.

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