By Orhan Coskun
ANKARA, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Turkey has not received any new request from the United States to reduce the level of its crude oil purchases from Iran and is continuing with its existing level of imports, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told Reuters on Wednesday.
In June Washington exempted Turkey, along with six other countries, from financial sanctions on Iran's oil trade for six months in return for a 20 percent cut in Ankara's purchases.
Last week, the U.S. Senate approved expanded sanctions on global trade with Iran's energy and shipping sectors as it continued to ratchet up economic pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme.
The new package kept in place exemptions for countries including Turkey that have made significant cuts to their purchases of Iranian crude oil.
'There is no new demand from the USA to reduce the amount of crude oil which we get from Iran,' Yildiz said.
'Whatever the current process is for purchasing crude oil from Iran, we are continuing that in the same way,' he added.
Official trade data last month showed Turkey's crude oil imports from Iran fell by more than 30 percent to 75,281 barrels per day (bpd) in October from September as volumes of oil from other suppliers including Iraq and Saudi Arabia increased.
The Islamic Republic, which once supplied more than 60 percent of Turkey's crude requirements, ranked third in October behind Iraq and Russia.
Washington says Tehran is enriching uranium to levels that could be used in nuclear weapons. Iran says the programme is for peaceful purposes.
In natural gas, Turkey accounts for about 90 percent of exports from Iran, which ranks second as its supplier behind Russia.
Yildiz told reporters in parliament that Turkey had held talks with the United States on the subject and that Washington had agreed not to impose sanctions on its natural gas purchases from Iran.
'We said to them, if you tell us not to buy gas from Iran, that would be a sanction on Turkey and not on Iran. They agreed not to include natural gas agreements in the sanctions,' Yildiz said.
Turkey pays for the gas using Turkish lira, which Tehran uses to buy Turkish gold. Couriers carry the gold to Dubai and from there, it is shipped to Iran.
Separately, Yildiz said Turkey's energy investments in Iraq were continuing as planned.
His comments came a day after a plane carrying him to a conference in Iraqi Kurdistan was denied permission to land.
Iraq's central government in Baghdad, which has been locked in a feud over oil and land rights with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the north, has been riled by Turkey's recent moves aimed at forging closer ties with the Iraqi Kurds.
(Reporting by Orhan Coskun; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Jane Baird) Keywords: TURKEY USA/IRAN
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