Clinton Urges India to Further Cut Iranian Oil Imports

Posted May 7th, 2012 at 2:50 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged India to further cut its oil imports from Iran, as part of a continued campaign to pressure Tehran over its controversial nuclear program.

Speaking at a town hall event Monday in Kolkata, Clinton praised India for reductions it has already made, but said there is enough oil available from other markets for further cuts.

India has enormous energy needs stemming from its rapid growth, and has been critical of a U.S. law imposing sanctions on banks from countries that buy Iranian oil.

Clinton is also meeting Monday with Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal state and a major roadblock to Indian efforts to open its market for direct foreign investment.

Last year, Banerjee forced the government to roll back an order that would have allowed American companies like Wal-Mart to own a 51-percent stake in multi-brand retail operations.

Later Monday, Clinton is scheduled to travel to New Delhi to meet with top government officials and lay the groundwork for a U.S.-India strategic forum next month in Washington.

The top U.S. diplomat is also expected to raise the issue of civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries, and discuss a stalled agreement to share water from the Teesta river with Bangladesh.

However, the top of Clinton's agenda is Iran. Western powers suspect Iran is developing nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian energy program, a charge Tehran denies.