Iran stops oil shipments to UK and France in blow against EU sanctions
IRAN has halted oil shipments to Britain and France in an apparent pre-emptive blow against the European Union after the bloc imposed sanctions on the country’s fuel exports.
It follows a flurry of contradictory signals by Iran about a backlash against the EU for imposing a boycott on Iranian oil beginning in July this year. The 27-nation EU accounts for about 18 per cent of Iran’s oil exports.
Oil ministry spokesman Ali Reza Nikzad-Rahbar insisted the suspension posed no problems for Iran.
He said: “We have our own customers and replaced British and French companies with other firms.”
Selling oil to other customers brings its own problem for Tehran. China has notably toughened its oil price negotiation position with Iran since the beginning of the year, exploiting the situation the Middle East country finds itself in.
The EU sanctions announced last month are part of Western efforts to target Iran’s oil sector in an attempt to rein in Tehran’s nuclear programme.
US national security adviser Tom Donilon conferred with Israeli leaders at the weekend amid mounting American concern that Israel is planning what Washington views as “premature” military action against Iran’s nuclear programme.
Last night, both the US and Britain urged Israel not to attack Iran’s nuclear program. In their warnings, both Foreign Secretary William Hague and the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey, said an Israeli attack on Iran would have grave consequences for the region and urged Israel to give international sanctions against Iran more time to work.
Mr Hague also warned of Iran’s “increasing willingness to contemplate” terrorism around the world.
Earlier, diplomats said Iran was poised to greatly expand uranium enrichment at a fortified underground bunker to a point that would boost how quickly it could make nuclear warheads.
They said Tehran had put finishing touches for the installation of thousands of new-generation centrifuges at the cavernous bunker – machines that can produce enriched uranium much more quickly and efficiently than its present machines.
While saying that the electrical circuitry, piping and supporting equipment for the new centrifuges was now in place, the diplomats emphasised that Tehran had not started installing the new machines at its Fordo facility and could not say whether it was planning to.
The reported work at Fordo appeared to reflect Iran’s determination to forge ahead with nuclear activity that could be used to make atomic arms, despite rapidly escalating international sanctions and the latent threat of an Israeli military strike on its nuclear facilities.
The diplomats’ comments came as International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors were yesterday due to visit Tehran. Their trip – the second this month – is another attempt to break more than three years of Iranian stonewalling about claims that it has, or is, secretly working on nuclear weapons armed with enriched uranium.
Iranian officials deny nuclear weapons aspirations, saying the claims are based on bogus intelligence from the US and Israel.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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