Saras, one of Italy’s leading refiners, said on Tuesday its core earnings in the fourth quarter fell 31 per cent on weak demand due to the eurozone debt crisis and high oil prices fuelled by the growing tension over Iran. Saras, which currently uses about 10 per cent of Iranian crude oils in its refinery mix, reiterated its position that if the EU embargo on oil imports from Iran is enforced it will take all necessary actions to procure alternative crude oils. In January the European Union decided to establish a total crude oil embargo against Iran, effective as of July 1. Saras said its fourth-quarter comparable earnings before interest taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) stood at 55.6 million euros ($74.48 million), above an average analyst forecast provided by the company of 39 million euros. It said planned maintenance at its Sarroch refinery in Sardinia this year is expected to cut core earnings by $70-85 million. Overcapacity and a weak economic climate have cut refining margins, especially for the smaller operators across Europe. Italy’s oil and gas major Eni said earlier in February European refining margins will remain at unprofitable levels due to high costs of oil supplies, sluggish demand and excess capacity.