NEW DELHI, Jan 26 (IANS): An Israeli website has suggested that India has agreed to pay Iran in gold for oil purchases, but Indian authorities have called the report "speculative".
In an "exclusive report" on Jan 23 this year, the website, debka.com, quoted Iranian sources as saying that "India is the first buyer of Iranian oil to agree to pay for its purchases in gold instead of US dollars".
However, Indian government officials said the report was "speculative" and hence did not merit any response.
The report, which went online soon after an Indian official team visited Iran last week, also claimed that China may follow suit, noting that India and China buy about one million barrels a day from Iran, which amounts to 40 percent of that nation's total exports of 2.5 million barrels per day.
"By trading in gold, New Delhi and Beijing enable Tehran to bypass the upcoming freeze on its central bank's assets and the oil embargo which the European Union's foreign ministers agreed to impose Jan 23," it claimed.
On Monday, European Union foreign ministers had agreed to ban oil imports from Iran from July 1, 2012, in an effort to force Tehran from developing its nuclear arsenal.
Indian officials, who did not want to be identified, pointed out that they were working out with their Iranian counterparts on the options they have to make payments toward oil imports.
"We have time till June end to decide on our options and to exercise them," an official told IANS.
Oil imports, particularly from Iran, are critical for India's energy security, as 80 percent of oil requirements come from outside the country. Iran accounts for about 12 percent of India's total oil imports.
India's Petroleum Minister S. Jaipal Reddy Wednesday reacted to the European Union's sanctions against Iran, saying New Delhi would continue to explore "options" for paying Tehran for its oil imports.
He also noted that India would only abide by the sanctioned imposed by the UN.
Among the options India is considering for paying Iran is to do business using Indian currency on the lines of the arrangement with Russia in the past.
New Delhi and Tehran have been debating options for Indian payments for over a year now, since the Reserve Bank of India in December 2010 banned Indian firms from using the Asian Clearing Union to pay for oil imports from Iran.