Cape Town - South Africa is looking to source more oil from
Nigeria, its deputy president said on Wednesday, suggesting Pretoria is moving
to cut crude imports from Iran to avoid looming US sanctions.
Africa's biggest economy imports a quarter of its crude from
Iran, but has come under Western pressure to cut the shipments as part of
sanctions designed to halt Tehran's suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.
After several months of confusing and conflicting messages
from the diplomatically non-aligned Pretoria, Deputy President Kgalema
Motlanthe gave the clearest sign yet that South Africa is shopping around for
"We would guarantee going forward, to our Nigerian
brothers, demand for their liquid fuels because we don't want to source our
fuel in areas that are likely to be unstable," he told reporters during a
briefing with Nigerian Vice President Namadi Sambo in Cape Town.
"We are quite confident that Nigeria will become one of
South Africa's trusted suppliers of liquid fuel."
South Africa took 615,834 tonnes of Nigerian crude in March,
more than four times the same month last year and more than the 505,908 tonnes
it bought from Iran, according to customs data.
Some South African refineries are designed to treat
Iranian-type crude only, and analysts say refiners will be hard-pressed to
replace those supplies with other products.
Any disruption to crude imports could hit fuel supplies in
South Africa, which has suffered shortages in the last year because of strikes
and refinery problems.
An energy ministry official said last week that South Africa
was holding almost daily talks with the United States, European Union and Iran
about reducing its purchases and was "confident" a deal can be struck
to avert sanctions.
Refiners in South Africa include Shell, BP, Total, Chevron,
petrochemicals group Sasol , and Engen, majority-owned by Malaysian state oil
BP, Chevron, Sasol [JSE:SOL] and Engen said earlier this year that
they have either stopped or were not sourcing any Iranian crude. Trade data
from March showed, however, that imports of Iranian crude had gone up from the