January 23, 2012
EU bans Iranian oil, Tehran responds with threats
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A member of Iran’s influential Assembly of Experts, former intelligence minister Ali Fallahian, said Tehran should respond to the delayed-action EU sanctions by stopping sales to the bloc immediately, denying the Europeans time to arrange alternative supplies and damaging their economies with higher oil prices.
“The best way is to stop exporting oil ourselves before the end of this six months and before the implementation of the plan,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted him as saying.
He reiterated that Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow channel between the Gulf and open sea through which a third of all oil tanker traffic passes to importers around the world.
Washington has said it will not tolerate any closure, a position underlined by Sunday’s passage through the strait of a U.S. flotilla around the carrier Abraham Lincoln, accompanied by two European frigates, Britain’s Argyll and France’s La Motte-Picquet.
While Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, possibly aware of the warships’ impending arrival, had backed away on Saturday from a threat made by a vice president last month to prevent “even one drop of oil” passing through the strait if the West embargoed Iran’s crude, a senior member of parliament said on Monday that the closure remained an option if exports were disrupted.
“If any disruption happens regarding the sale of Iranian oil, the Strait of Hormuz will definitely be closed,” Mohammad Kossari, deputy head of parliament’s foreign affairs and national security committee, told Fars.
Going further, he referred to previous U.S. warnings that it would use force to break any Iranian blockade of the channel and threatened wider violence against Washington’s global interests.
“If America seeks adventures after the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, Iran will make the world unsafe for Americans in the shortest possible time,” Kossari said.
“It is in America’s interests to accept a powerful Iran and not seek military adventures.”
While the Western powers were at pains to describe their naval movement through the strait as routine, a view echoed by the Revolutionary Guards, they also stressed its symbolism.
“On this occasion HMS Argyll and a French vessel joined a U.S. carrier group transiting through the Strait of Hormuz, to underline the unwavering international commitment to maintaining rights of passage under international law,” Britain’s defense ministry said in a statement.
In Paris, spokesman Thierry Burkhard said: “It’s a sign to Iran if they want to consider it like that.”
Iran, the world’s No. 5 oil exporter and also rich in natural gas, says it is refining uranium and developing other nuclear technologies to meet rising energy needs. But the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency reported in November that it had evidence suggesting Iran had worked on designing an atomic bomb.
The unprecedented effort to take Iran’s 2.6 million barrels of oil per day off international markets has kept global prices high, pushed down Iran’s rial currency and caused a surge in the cost of basic goods for Iranians.
Additional reporting by Robin Pomeroy and Mitra Amiri in Tehran, David Brunnstrom in Brussels, Adrian Croft in London, John Irish in Paris, Alexei Anishchuk in Sochi, Ari Rabinovitch and Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem and Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Mark Heinrich
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