WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's oil production appears to be "ramping up" and can fill some of the demand shortfalls caused by sanctions on Iranian exports, CIA Director David Petraeus said on Tuesday.
Sanctions on Iran oil imports appear to be biting much more in recent weeks, he said at a Senate intelligence committee hearing.
China has reduced its imports of Iranian oil and "it remains to be seen whether that continues. It appears that Saudi Arabian production is ramping up and can fill some of the demand that might have been met by Iranian exports now that there are the sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran," Petraeus said.
The United States imposed the harshest sanctions so far on Iran due to concerns over its nuclear program. The West worries that the program is for developing nuclear weapons, but Iran says it is for peaceful purposes.
Petraeus said the sanctions were having an impact.
"The sanctions have been biting much, much more literally in recent weeks than they have until this time," he said.
"What we have to see now is how does that play out, what is the level of popular discontent inside Iran, does that influence the strategic decision making of the Supreme Leader and the regime, keeping in mind that the regime's paramount goal in all that they do is their regime survival," Petraeus said.
(Reporting By Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Sandra Maler and Jackie Frank)