Iran has discovered a massive new oil field, President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, a finding that would increase its proven reserves by about one-third in a rare piece of "good news" for an economy hit by US sanctions.
Speaking on state television, Rouhani said the nation's economy had stabilized despite punishing US measures against its senior leaders, the banking and finance sectors.
The vast field in southwestern Khuzestan province holds about 53 billion barrels of oil, he said.
The 80 meter deep reservoir extends for almost 200 kilometers from the Khuzestan-Iraq border to the city of Omidiyeh.
"This is a small government gift to the people of Iran," he said in a speech in central Yazd.
"We announce today to the United States that we are a rich nation and, despite its enmity and cruel sanctions, Iranian oil industry workers and engineers have discovered this large oil field."
The discovery would add about 34% to the OPEC member's current proven reserves, estimated by energy giant BP at 155,6 billion barrels.
Iran, a founding member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, is in what was already the fourth largest oil reserve in the world.
New reserves, if proven, would raise it to third, ahead of Saudi Arabia's regional archrival.
But it remains to be seen how much the country can benefit from the new field. Iran has been struggling to sell its oil since US President Donald Trump withdrew from a major 2015 nuclear deal last year and repositioned unilateral sanctions.
In May, Washington ended the temporary sanctions exemptions it had granted to the top eight Iranian oil buyers, increasing pressure on China, India and Turkey reserves to find other suppliers.
Iran suffered a sharp economic slowdown this year, with a falling currency, sending inflation skyrocketing and pushing up import prices.
But Rouhani insisted that the economy had stabilized.
“Our people have had a rough time last year… [but] I believe the United States is desperate,” he said.