United President Donald Trump on Monday said he wants to impose sanctions on Iranian oil exports gradually to avoid causing a “shock to the market”, reported Reuters.

“We have the toughest sanctions ever imposed, but on oil we want to go a little bit slower because I do not want to drive [up] the oil prices in the world,” he told reporters at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington before leaving for an election campaign event. “This has nothing to do with Iran...I could get the Iran oil down to zero immediately but it would cause a shock to the market. I do not want to lift oil prices.”

United States sanctions targeting Iran’s oil, banking and transport sectors came into effect on Monday. India is among eight countries that Washington DC has allowed to temporarily import oil from Tehran despite the sanctions. The Trump administration had earlier said that it expected all countries, including India, to reduce their oil imports from Iran to zero by November 5.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said negotiations were under way to get all nations to bring down their imports from Iran to zero. The reimposed sanctions are aimed at “fundamentally altering the behaviour of the Islamic Republic of Iran”, Pompeo had said last week. Washington had listed 12 demands that Tehran must meet to get the sanctions lifted, including stopping its alleged support for terrorists and ending its military engagement in Syria.

When asked about his decision to provide temporary exemptions to the eight countries, Trump said he was not “looking to be a hero” by bringing oil imports down to zero immediately, PTI reported.

The Democratic Party, however, criticised Trump for the exemptions. “Rather than achieving its stated goal of eliminating Iran’s oil exports altogether, the administration has issued ‘exemptions’ for major Iranian oil importers, allowing Iran to earn billions of dollars from oil sale,” said Democratic Whip Steny H Hoyer.

Hoyer alleged that the Trump administration has isolated the country and undermined multilateral efforts to curb Iran’s “dangerous behaviour” by tearing up the nuclear deal with Tehran that was signed in 2015 during the presidency of Barack Obama. Trump has called the deal “decaying and rotten”. The nuclear deal, which was also signed by the other four permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Germany, and the European Union, had lifted decades-old sanctions on Tehran after it promised to tone down its nuclear programme considerably.