Iranian Oil Exchange Mulls Ditching Dollars for Rubles

Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, may use the ruble in trading on its new oil exchange, the country's ambassador to Moscow said Friday.

"Big energy producers like Iran and Russia should try to free the world of dollar slavery," Ambassador Gholamreza Ansari said on Ekho Moskvy radio.

The two nations already cooperate in nuclear energy and may start closer coordination of natural gas production. Russia holds the world's largest gas reserves, followed by Iran, and together they produce of almost one-fifth of the world's oil. The two share the goal of finding alternatives to a weakened dollar.

Iran plans to trade oil in currencies other than its own rial to offer diversity, the ambassador said. The exchange was to open on Sunday, the country's official IRNA news service said this week. Iran has planned to open the exchange since 2005.

"I don't think it would have any impact on the oil market at all," said Kevin Norrish, an oil markets analyst at Barclays Capital in London. "I think it's more political than related to oil market prices or dynamics."

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who is also chairman of Gazprom, said Friday that the ruble should be used as a "regional reserve currency."

Russia and other natural gas producing countries should also form a group to coordinate production and sales of the fuel "as soon as possible," Ansari said.

Iran a year ago proposed to set up a gas cartel similar to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. A final decision on a charter to strengthen the clout of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, which has been meeting since 2001, will be made when the group holds its annual summit in Moscow in June, Kommersant reported last month.