NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The European Union will ask for India's help in convincing Iran to abandon its nuclear program and return to the negotiating table, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said in a newspaper interview published on Thursday.
"I plan to ask Indian leaders to apply their considerable leverage to Iran and help in convincing the Iranian leadership to give up their sensitive nuclear program and return to the negotiating table," Van Rompuy told the Times of India.
The United States and the European Union have tightened sanctions against Iran this year, hoping to choke its oil revenues and persuade it to abandon a suspected nuclear weapons program.
Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful means.
India imports 12 percent of its oil from the Islamic Republic and could be badly hit by the latest sanctions. The United States and its allies in Europe are putting pressure on New Delhi to look for alternative sources of oil.
New Delhi has, thus far, defied the mounting pressure from Washington and Brussels and is seeking alternative ways of paying for Iran's oil without violating the sanctions.
New Delhi will send a delegation to Tehran this month to explore increasing India's exports to Iran and for making payments for oil imports in Indian rupees. Iran has agreed to accept rupees for 45 percent of New Delhi's $11 billion a year oil bill, sources told Reuters early this month.
India is currently paying Iran for the oil through Turkey's Halkbank after a previous mechanism was closed 13 months ago, but fears that route may also succumb to international pressure.
(Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Ranjit Gangadharan)