LONDON - Obscure private firms are offering Iranian crude oil at steep discounts to European oil traders as Tehran seeks ways to restore oil export flows hit by Western sanctions.

Traders who buy crude for European refineries say they are are getting daily calls offering Iranian crude, sometimes accompanied by the promise of fake paperwork to disguise it as oil from a different origin.

Seeking to reverse a slump in exports caused by US and European Union sanctions, Tehran last month scrapped a strict policy of marketing oil only through state National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) to let private companies trade.

The sanctions, aimed at pressuring Iran to abandon what the West says is a nuclear arms program, have almost halted Iran's oil sales to Europe. The EU banned imports from July 1 and non-EU Turkey has slashed purchases.

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