LONDON - Iran's biggest tanker operator, NITC, has $1 billion in ship insurance cover to keep its fleet on the water and serve clients in Asia despite Western sanctions on the Islamic Republic's oil trade, a senior NITC official said on Tuesday.

Washington and Brussels have put financial measures in place, including moves to prevent Tehran from gaining vital insurance cover, to make it tougher for Iran to pay for and ship oil.

The NITC official, who declined to be named, said his company's Asian business was not affected. "We can trade with no problems at all everywhere in Asia."

He declined to give figures for shipments, however, and his comments contrasted with evidence from Asian buyers that they were significantly scaling back purchases from Iran. These included a senior Chinese oil executive who said this week that refiner Sinopec will cut imports by up to a fifth this year.

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