TEHRAN (Reuters) - Irans Parliament passed a bill on Sunday that would cut energy subsidies to make the country less vulnerable to international sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme, the official IRNA news agency reported. The bill needs to be approved by the watchdog body, the Guardian Council, before being implemented. The parliament is still discussing other parts of the bill, including cutting food subsidies. Iran is the worlds fifth-largest oil exporter but lacks capacity at its refineries to produce enough fuel for its home market. It imports up to 40 percent of its gasoline needs, or between 100,000 and 120,000 barrels per day. It also imports another 30,000 bpd of diesel for heating and transport. That dependence on international markets is a vulnerability that the US and its European allies may exploit through tougher sanctions if Iran presses on with its uranium enrichment work. Subsidies have placed a heavy burden on Irans budget and Tehran has said it would need an additional $6.5 billion from the budget through March to cover higher-than-expected import costs. Cutting subsidies could eat into demand and lower the need for imports, depending on how far Iran drives up the price. Higher domestic prices could also make smuggling Iranian gasoline less profitable and in the longer term improve vehicle efficiency. The impact of the bill, if the Guardian Council approves it, would take time to be felt as subsidies would be phased out over years. The government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was re-elected in a disputed vote in June, says hefty fuel subsidies mainly benefit the wealthy, not the poor. Rather than finance subsidies to all, the government wants to make cash payments to the poor. Critics say the bill would increase inflation, now running at about 13 percent annually after a peak of nearly 30 percent a year ago. Analysts fear implementation of the bill may outrage ordinary Iranians, who already suffer from high inflation and unemployment. Iranians enjoy some of the cheapest gasoline in the world and cheap prices at the pump are seen as one of the benefits of living atop huge oil reserves. The introduction of a fuel rationing scheme in 2007 sparked riots. Ahmadinejads government also wants to increase utility prices. The president appears to have consolidated his power, managing to pass a bill that just seven months ago was rejected by Irans conservative-dominated parliament. In March, parliament removed the subsidy reform plan from the countrys 2009-10 budget bill. Ahmadinejad accused parliament then of violating the constitution. Iran has already been hit by three rounds of United Nations sanctions over the nuclear programme, which the government says is just for energy purposes.