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Iran can export as much oil as it needs - supreme leader


GENEVA (Reuters) - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that the country can export as much oil as it needs, his official website reported, as the United States prepares to end sanctions waivers it granted to some importers of Iranian crude.

"America's efforts in sanctioning the sale of Iranian oil won't get anywhere," Khamenei was quoted as saying. "We can export as much of our oil as we need and want."

Oil prices hit their highest level since November on Tuesday after Washington announced all waivers on imports of sanctions-hit Iranian oil would end next week, pressuring importers to stop buying from Tehran and further tightening global supply.

Washington's enmity will receive an answer and Iran's people will not remain silent, Khamenei said, without elaborating.

The commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ navy said on Monday that Iran would close the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil conduit in the Gulf, if Tehran was barred from using it.

The United States on Monday demanded that buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers, most of them in Asia, to continue importing limited volumes.

The White House said after its Iran move that it was working with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to ensure oil markets were “adequately supplied”.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are making a mistake in helping U.S. President Donald Trump's efforts to cut back on Iran's oil exports, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was quoted by his official website as saying on Wednesday.

"You whose existence is in the shadow of the Islamic Republic of Iran, how can you tell Trump that if you bring Iran's oil exports to zero we will make up for it?" Rouhani said. "Do you understand the consequences of this statement and that it means you are a definite enemy of the Iranian people?"

Rouhani also said Iran is willing to negotiate with the United States only when Washington removes pressure and apologises, his website reported.

Iran has always been a nation of negotiation and diplomacy, as it has been for war and defence, he said.

"Negotiation is only possible if all the pressures are lifted, they apologise for their illegal actions and there is mutual respect," Rouhani was quoted as saying.

Rouhani, who appeared to be referring to lifting U.S. sanctions, said the United States was not ready to negotiate.

(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva; Editing by Dale Hudson and Jason Neely)