Iran’s oil minister admitted Monday, January 7 for the first time that oil exports have dropped 40% because of Western sanctions, breaking away from previous denials of impact from international pressure, The Wall Street Journal reported. Over the past nine months, “there has been a 40% decline in oil sales and a 45% decrease in repatriating oil earnings,” Rostam Qasemi said. Last year, Western nations escalated sanctions over Iran’s energy sector to pressure Tehran over its nuclear program. The European Union has prohibited buying oil from the Islamic Republic while its sales to Asia have been hit by an E.U. insurance ban on Iranian oil shipping and U.S. sanctions against Tehran’s central bank. Independent experts and Iranian lawmakers say oil exports have been more than halved from at least 2.2 million barrels a day a year ago to about 1 million barrels a day today.