The government has yet to decide whether or not to cut oil imports form Iran, the department of energy said on Friday.

“No decision has been taken... on the sanctions issue because the investigation of the response options is far from complete,” it said in a statement.

“The government is also talking to a number of other countries that supply crude oil to determine what their potential to supply is.”

A significant reduction of oil bought from Iran could win South Africa an exclusion from new United States sanctions.

The US recently announced that it would impose sanctions on any country that failed to abide by its request to make “significant cuts” in its Iranian supplies.

This was a way of putting pressure on Iranian leaders to abandon any illegal part of their nuclear program. Iran claims its program is solely for civilian energy and medical research.

The South African government was considering all options in terms of the potential impact of the US and European Union sanctions on Iran.

This includes consultation with a number of countries to look at how they are approaching the matter.

Among the countries consulted were Iran, US, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Angola, the department said.

Talks that South Africa was having with other countries, which may potentially be the country's alternative suppliers, “have been very useful”, it said.

“These talks would enhance the long term solution that government is working towards and would feed into the overall response, which will be presented to Cabinet towards the end of May.”

The US was consulted in particular, to try and understand the nature of the sanctions, but also for them to understand the potential impact on South Africa and the region of SADC.

According to reports, the new sanctions law enacted in December last year do not define what constitutes the “significant reduction” needed to qualify for an exemption from penalties.

South Africans were warned not to panic as the supply of fuel would generally not be impacted by any of the engagements that were underway.

“We 1/8don't 3/8 foresee any supply disruptions or impact on the consumer,” the department said.

While the current sanctions are bilateral in nature, they had a serious impact because of the global financial system.

On Thursday, deputy foreign minister Ebrahim Ebrahim was quoted saying almost all South Africa's oil imports from Iran had been suspended.

“(To my knowledge), no Iranian oil is flowing into our country,” deputy foreign minister Ebrahim said on SABC television news.

“If there is any, it is very little.”

Ebrahim did not agree with the US move but said that South Africa had to abide by it due to the economic hit it would suffer if it did not comply.

“We don't have any choice in the matter,” he said in Pretoria, according to a Reuters report.

“As a sovereign country, South Africa should be able to buy oil from wherever it wants.”

The department said the country heeded UN Security Council and African Union resolutions.

However, as a matter of policy, the government believed in the use of multilateral bodies to resolve disputes and conflicts. - Sapa