TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - “The main culprit behind the rise in oil prices and instability in the market is Mr. Trump and his disruptive and illegal policies,” Zangeneh told reporters in Tehran after a cabinet meeting Wednesday.
Trump on Tuesday accused OPEC of "ripping off the rest of the world" by pushing up prices after the organization, Russia and other producers ignored his demand to ramp up production ahead of mid-term elections in the US in November.
“The president of the United States, who is himself the main driver of rising oil prices and instability in the market, points the finger at OPEC, while OPEC has used all its capacity for production,” Zangeneh said.
Oil prices have been on an upswing since May when Trump decided to leave a nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions on the country which is OPEC’s third largest producer.
"Trump tries to reduce Iranian oil exports and wants prices not to go up at the same time. This is while if he wants a stable market, he must stop unwarranted meddling and creating tensions in the Middle East and not block Iran's production and exports," Zangeneh said.
"Last night, the French president also clearly touched on this issue in his address to the United Nations," he added.
Macron: Prices to fall if Iran could sell oil
President Emmanuel Macron blamed Trump for the surge in oil prices, saying his sanctions on Iran have led to the current situation.
Crude prices have risen to the highest levels since 2014, with global traders saying it is conceivable to see oil north of $100 a barrel soon.
Speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Macron challenged Trump’s plan to zero Iran’s oil exports, saying Tehran should be able to sell oil to bring down prices.
“If he goes to the end of his logic, he’ll see that it’s good for the oil price that Iran can sell it,” Macron said.
“It’s good for peace and global oil prices. Otherwise there is an impasse in the rationale for which I don’t have the answer. It’s an economic reality ... supply and demand,” the French leader added.
Trump has repeatedly ordered OPEC to tamp down rising oil prices but analysts say OPEC's ability to drive down the cost of crude is limited.
On Saturday, the 15-nation OPEC, Russia and several other producers rebuffed Trump's demand to hike output and opted instead to stick to their earlier decision to only gradually increase supply.
Trump accused the organization of "ripping off the rest of the world" by pushing up prices. The US president has said he had been assured by Saudi Arabia that it would pump enough oil to make up for losses from Iran being cancelled out of the market.
Zangeneh said, "OPEC's current production capacity is not more than what it produces today, and if a country says anything contrary to this is only bragging."
Iran’s OPEC governor Hossein Kazempour Ardebili said last month that Trump had apparently been duped by Saudi Arabia into believing that the kingdom could replace Iranian barrels cut from the market.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia went along the decision by other countries to leave output unchanged, taking note of Iran’s warning that it would veto any change to production levels.
According to market analysts, no matter what OPEC does, prices will keep rising ahead of Trump's Nov. 4 deadline for oil buyers to stop importing Iranian crude.
Ironically, the fallout from the price rise is expected to bite Trump at mid-term elections, with consumer sentiment measured by the University of Michigan having already dropped to its lowest point in nearly a year.
The Institute of International Finance said on Tuesday Iranian oil exports are declining ahead of the second round of US sanctions.
Iran’s crude oil and condensates exports were 2.8 million barrels a day in April and are now estimated at 2.0 million barrels in September, it said.
Iran is currently using its own tankers to ship products to China and India at no extra cost and accepting euros, Indian rupees and Chinese yuan instead of US dollars.
Bloomberg, however, on Wednesday cited officials at four Indian refiners as saying that they were not planning to buy any crude oil from Iran in November.
There was no immediate reaction to the report from Indian officials. India is the second-largest buyer of Iranian oil, accounting for about 27 percent of the Middle Eastern country’s exports with an average of 577,000 barrels a day this year.
Iranian officials say they have drawn up necessary contingency plans and are ready for any eventuality.
According to the Institute of International Finance, barter trade and cash could play a bigger role as US sanctions are enforced.
On Saturday, the EU, China and Russia agreed on a "special purpose vehicle" designed to circumvent US sanctions against Iran's oil exports.
Several European diplomats said the idea was to create a barter system to exchange Iranian oil for goods without money changing hands.
Zangeneh said the two sides should be able to implement the plan, adding he believed "the parties have the political will to carry it out".
"The Europeans are serious about this issue and want it to be done," he said.