Iran might be forced to revise its oil sales agreements with the United States if there is "so much ado" about buying a single shipment of American kerosene and diesel oil, the country's chief oil executive said tonight.
The chairman of the National Iranian Oil Co., Hassan Nazih, said he was taken aback by what he termed "a hullabaloo" in the American press about what was an old issue.
Nazih said that if such "an unimportant deal" was misrepresented by the American news media then "we might as well abandon it."
President Carter ordered a shipment of heating oil to be sold to Iran for what he descried as humanitarian reasons, notably a reported shortage in Iran of heating and cooking oil. The sale, by the U.S. independent oil firm Amerada Hess, apparently also is aimed at guaranteeing continued crude oil purchases by that company from Iran, one of its main suppliers.
Nazih warned that media attention about the proposed deal could lead to the review of Iran's oil sales to the United States. "We might be confronted with the demands of our people for what may well be a revision of our American oil agreements," he said.
Nazih, a Western-oriented lawyer who has been a strong critic of some of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's policies, is believed to be in an especially sensitive position because of the proposed purchase of American refined oil products. The purchase opens the top National Iranian Oil Co. management to charges of mismanaging the country's oil refineries and underscores difficulties in maintaining capacity at the main oil refinery at Abandan.
Iran sells about 33 percent of its oil exports to U.S. companies, several of them belonging to a consortium which used to market Iranian oil under the rule of the shah.
Nazih said the $47 million shipment of kerosene constituted just 1 percent of the oil Iran was providing the United States and the question of a possible resale of heating oil had no basis.
"We are purchasing the products as a precautionary measure to stockpile for our internal consumption," he said.
Nazih said that a new refinery being built at Isfahan was expected to start operating in two or three months and its capacity of 200,000 barrels a day would enable Iran to meet its domestic requirements.
Iran has had a chronic shortage of middle distillates such as kerosene because the country loses too much of its valuable light crude oil in trying to refine the products.
In the past Iran has turned to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or other Persian Gulf countries for a supply of the products.