Iran's oil minister Rostam Qasemi on Wednesday slammed the use of the vital commodity as a political tool by "big countries" against producers, warning sanctions will jeopardise supplies.
"Unfortunately, some big countries who are among the major energy consumers view oil as one of the basic constituents in their military, security and political strategies, and use it as a political tool against oil producing countries," he told the International Energy Forum currently meeting in Kuwait.
"Exerting unilateral economic constraints... is a threat which jeopardises free trade and the continuity of oil supply in the world," he said, in clear reference to Western sanctions on Iranian oil exports over its controversial nuclear programme.
Qasemi's comments came as the International Energy Agency forecast on Wednesday that Iranian oil exports will fall by 800,000 barrels per day after mid 2012.
The IEA said Iran's exports would decline to around one million bpd, while global demand for oil grows by 800,000 bpd to 89.9 million bpd.
"Ultimately, all concerned groups in the oil market, including producers and consumers, will face various problems," Qasemi told the forum that groups 88 oil producing and consuming nations.
With fresh EU sanctions on Iran's oil exports to take effect in July, the minister said that despite "having a history of over one hundred years in the petroleum industry, Iran has never initiated using oil as a political tool."
He lamented that dialogue between producing and consumer countries had failed to avert the enforcement of oil sanctions.
"Unfortunately, the trend of dialogue between producers and consumers has not been successful in establishing an atmosphere of healthy cooperation, depoliticising oil and energy industries, and eliminating sanctions, to the extent that producers and consumers expected," he said.
The United States and the European Union have in the past four months ramped up economic sanctions on Iran in a bid to force it to suspend uranium enrichment, the most sensitive part of its nuclear programme.
Tehran warned in December that it will blockade the strategic Strait of Hormuz -- a key transit route for global oil supply -- if the West imposes further punitive measures.
Speaking to reporters, Qasemi claimed that buyers of Iranian crude were
still trading with Tehran, despite US sanctions and the forthcoming EU ban.
"The previous customers we had are still with us... They all cannot tolerate working without Iranian crude," he said.
Four Asian nations import two thirds of Iran's oil exports, with the EU accounting for only around a fifth of its exports.
China bought 20 percent of Iran's oil exports in 2010, Japan 17 percent, India 16 percent and South Korea 9 percent, according to the US government's Energy Information Administration.
Italy, Spain and Greece were the main customers for some 600,000 bpd of Iranian crude exported to Europe in the first 10 months of 2011, according to the IEA.