TEHRAN: Iran announced a major boost in oil production on Monday after the lifting of sanctions under its nuclear deal, while condemning new US measures against its missile program.
The National Iranian Oil Company said it had ordered production to increase by 500,000 barrels a day—a move Tehran had long planned for once its nuclear deal with world powers took effect.
The hike comes after the UN atomic watchdog confirmed at the weekend that Iran had complied with measures imposed by the deal with global powers reached in Vienna in July.
World leaders hailed the implementation of the deal, and the subsequent lifting of European and US sanctions, as a milestone in international diplomacy.
Tensions have persisted, however, with the US Treasury on Sunday announcing new sanctions on individuals and companies in connection with Iran’s ballistic missile program.
In welcoming the implementation of the nuclear deal, President Barack Obama had raised concerns about Iran’s continued “destabilizing activities” including its ballistic missile program.
Tehran decried the new measures as “illegitimate,” with foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari insisting the missile program has no links with the nuclear issue.
“Iran’s missile program has never been designed to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons,” Ansari said, quoted by ISNA news agency.
He said Iran would respond by “accelerating its legal ballistic missile program and boosting defense capabilities.”
But Iran was moving forward after the implementation of the nuclear deal as expected, with the increase in oil production expected to be followed by another half-a-million-barrel rise in six months.
Iran currently produces 2.8 million barrels per day and exports just over one million barrels.
National oil company chief Rokneddin Javadi, also Iran’s deputy oil minister, said Iran was moving forward with the increase despite a global supply glut that has pushed oil prices to 12-year lows, with a drop to below $28 a barrel on Monday.
“If Iran doesn’t increase its oil production, neighboring countries may in the next six to 12 months increase their production and take up Iran’s share,” Javadi said.
Cooperation on the nuclear program was also pushing ahead, with International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano in Tehran for talks on Iran’s continued compliance with the deal.
Amano met President Hassan Rouhani and Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, to discuss monitoring and verifying commitments under the agreement.
Amano said the agency was entering a new phase of cooperation with Iran, with implementing the so-called additional protocol, which allows for tougher inspections and monitoring, “of particular importance.”
“We must maintain the momentum,” he said, insisting very strong verification procedures were in place.
Speaking at an energy summit in Abu Dhabi, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius vowed world powers would be “extremely strict in monitoring the implementation” of the agreement.
Rouhani on Sunday said the taking effect of the nuclear deal—negotiated with the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany—had “opened a new chapter” in Iran’s relations with the world.
Warming ties with Washington were also in evidence in a weekend prisoner swap that saw Tehran release four Iranian-Americans, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian.
Rezaian, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and former US Marine Amir Hekmati arrived at a US military base in Germany late on Sunday on their way home from Iran.