TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran has discovered a massive new oil field, President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday, a find that would boost its proven reserves by about a third.
Speaking to a large group of people in the central city of Yazd, Rouhani also said Iran’s economy has stabilized despite U.S. sanctions against the country and its banking and finance sectors.
The vast field in the southwestern province of Khuzestan holds an estimated 53 billion barrels of crude, he said.
The 80-metre deep reservoir stretches nearly 200 kilometers from Khuzestan's border with Iraq to the city of Omidiyeh. The new oil field could become Iran’s second-largest field after one containing 65 billion barrels in Ahvaz.
"This is a small gift by the government to the people of Iran," he said. "We announce to America today that we are a rich nation, and despite your enmity and cruel sanctions, Iranian oil industry workers and engineers discovered this vast oil field."
The find would add around 34 percent to the OPEC member's current proven reserves, estimated by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) at 157 billion barrels.
Iran, a founding member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, sits on what were already the world's fourth-biggest oil reserves. The new reserves, if proven, would lift it to third place, just before Saudi Arabia.
Iran has struggled to sell its oil since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal last year and reimposed unilateral sanctions.
In May, Washington ended temporary sanctions waivers it had granted to the eight main buyers of Iranian oil, ratcheting up the pressure on holdouts China, India and Turkey to find other suppliers.
After the sanctions, Iran experienced a sharp economic downturn fuelled in part by U.S. sanctions, but Rouhani insisted the economy has now stabilized.
"The first thing I would like to emphasize here is that we have withstood the pressure exerted by foreigners over the past year, during which our people had to go through difficult times."
The IMF has said Iran's economy will contract by 9.5 percent this year but the growth is expected to stabilize at zero next year.
Judiciary authorities have cracked down hard on "economic disruptors" exploiting shortages and fluctuations in gold and currency prices, with dozens tried and some executed.
It’s been one year-and-a-half since President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal with Iran and embarked on a policy of "maximum pressure.”
Trump has been piling sanctions and heating up the rhetoric against Tehran, saying he aims to negotiate a better agreement with Iran and his policy will bring the Iranians to the table for that new deal.
However, the maximum pressure policy has not succeeded in bringing Iran to the negotiating table or curbing its regional activities across the Middle East as sought by Washington.
"In fact maximum pressure seems to have backfired and pushed Iran across the edge," British daily The Independent wrote on Saturday.
According to the paper, "economically, Iran has been able to draw on some of its financial reserves to cushion off the impact of American sanctions."
Politically, Iran has been able to utilize the theme of nationalism and historic grievances about big power bullying and fend off any unrest, it said.
On Sunday, President Rouhani called on Iranians not to let "America's wishes rise from the larynx of a few people, even though they are very limited in number."
He said the Iranian people's "resilience and unity and their ceaseless efforts have brought us to the point where the United States, in my opinion, has become disappointed."
The Trump administration’s policy on Iran, The Independent said, has isolated the United States and diminished its leverage to enforce the nuclear deal, if not open the door to its complete destruction.