10222014Wed

Iran says oil revenues down by half: paper

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's oil revenues have been cut in half this year compared with last year, a newspaper quoted Iran's economic minister as saying, an admission of how deeply Western sanctions are cutting Tehran's chief source of funds.

U.S. and European Union sanctions are designed to slash oil revenues to starve Tehran of funds that might be channeled into expensive nuclear weapons programs.

Iran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons, saying its atomic program is solely for peaceful purposes.

"Because of the sanctions, revenues collected from the country's oil have dropped by 50 percent," Economic Minister Shamseddin Hosseini was quoted as saying by economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad.

"By managing our resources and revenues, there will be no problem in paying salaries until the end of this year," he added, referring to Iran's calendar year which ends on March 20, 2013.

Hosseini had made the comments in an interview on state television on Saturday and they were published by the newspaper on Sunday.

Iranian legislators had previously hinted at the country's budget woes as a result of sanctions and officials have said the government should depend less on oil revenues and more on taxation to fill its coffers.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is due to present the 2013-2014 budget to Parliament for approval.

Iranian MP Mohammad Reza Bahonar said in September Iran's oil exports had dived to 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) in July as a result of sanctions, compared with between 2.3 and 2.4 million bpd last year.

In addition to oil embargoes, Iran also faces financial sanctions that make it difficult to repatriate earnings from oil it does manage to sell.

Starting February 6, U.S. law will prevent Iran from bringing home oil export earnings, a measure that will @lock up" a substantial amount of Tehran's funds, U.S. officials have said.

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati and Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by David Holmes)

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