US said India and others have shown "significant reduction" in oil purchase from Iran. (File photo)
US President Donald Trump said he gave temporary exemptions to India and seven other major importers of Iranian oil as they sought US' "help" and he did not want to drive oil prices "up to USD 100 a barrel or USD 150 a barrel".
The US on Monday imposed "the toughest ever" sanctions on a defiant Iran aimed at altering the Iranian regime's "behaviour". The sanctions cover Iran's banking and energy sectors and reinstate penalties for countries and companies in Europe, Asia and elsewhere that do not halt Iranian oil imports.
However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that eight countries — India, China, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey — were temporarily allowed to continue buying Iranian oil as they showed "significant reduction" in oil purchase from the Persian Gulf country.
"I gave some countries a break on the oil. I did it a little bit because they really asked for some help," Trump told reporters at a press conference in the White House on Wednesday.
The President said he also did it "because I don't want to drive oil prices up to USD 100 a barrel or USD 150 a barrel".
"I am driving them (oil prices) down. If you look at oil prices, they have come down very substantially over the last couple of months," he asserted.
Trump said the sanctions may "get tougher as time goes by", but he does not want them to have any effect on the global oil prices worldwide as he "consider that to be a tax, and I don't like taxes".
Later at another press conference, the State Department said its goal is to go down to zero oil import from Iran and during the next six months, it will monitor the diplomatic progress and the price of oil to ensure that the imposition of the sanctions was calibrated in the right way.
"We have an adequate oil supply market. We have to ensure that we advance our national security objectives without injuring our economic interests. If we were to increase the price of oil, it would be bad for American consumers, it would be bad for the global economy, and it would give an advantage to Iran," Deputy State Department Spokesperson Robert Paladino said.
He claimed that in 2019, there will be more oil supply than demand, which will put US in a "much better position to bring all countries importing Iranian crude to zero".