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Iran oil exports rise to 1.2 mil. barrels per day

TEHRAN, Iran--Iran's crude oil exports have hit 1.2 million barrels per day, almost doubling from eight months ago when the country elected a new president, a top government official said Friday.

Mansour Moazami, who holds the planning brief among the Islamic republic's five deputy oil ministers, said the numbers were 20 percent above forecasts and they would rise further.

“When the government took office, exports were around 700,000 barrels per day,” Moazimi was cited as saying by Mehr, a semi-official government news agency.

He said the updated figure of 1.2 million was supplemented by 200,000 barrels per day of derivative gas products from crude.

“Our oil exports are now 20 percent higher than in the budget numbers and we believe that in the current Iranian year they will increase further,” Moazimi added.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a reputed moderate who succeeded hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was elected in June, taking office in August.

The rising oil exports come as Iran and world powers prepare for a fifth round of talks next month aimed at a long-term deal on curbing the Islamic republic's disputed nuclear program.

Despite the higher numbers, Iran's oil exports remain heavily down on shipment levels before sanctions — the country was shipping 2.5 million barrels per day of crude abroad in late 2011.

China, India, South Korea and Japan are Iran's biggest oil export markets.

Under a preliminary deal signed last November, Iran agreed to freeze some nuclear activities for six months, which led to modest sanctions relief and a promise from Western powers of no new restrictions on its hard-hit economy.

Iran has fervently rejected Western and Israeli suspicions that its atomic program is masking a covert weapons drive.

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