Iran: EU oil sanctions 'unfair' and 'doomed to fail'

 

Catherine Ashton: "There is no question that if Iran responds positively the sanctions can eventually be lifted"

Iran has said an oil embargo adopted by European Union foreign ministers over the country's nuclear programme is "unfair" and "doomed to fail".

The measures would not prevent Iran's "progress for achieving its basic rights", foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

The sanctions ban all new oil contracts with Iran and freeze the assets of Iran's central bank in the EU.

The EU currently buys about 20% of Iran's oil exports.

"European officials and other countries which are under America's political pressure... should consider their national interests and not deprive themselves of Iran's oil to help US officials achieve their secret aims," Mr Mehmanparast added.

He accused the US of trying to create "problems with energy supply requirements in countries which are America's economic rivals".

US President Barack Obama has welcomed the EU sanctions, saying they show international unity against the "serious threat" posed by Iran's nuclear programme.

Warships on the move

Analysis

So once the new measures are in place, how successful will they be? Even Western diplomats are uncertain.

There is no doubting that the Iranian economy will suffer. But the nuclear programme is a matter of national pride and ultimately national security.

Iran has seen the demise of regimes in Iraq and Libya and noted the survival of that in North Korea - the one so-called "rogue state" that has nuclear weapons.

Iran's rulers may well believe that having at least the potential for a nuclear bomb is something that could secure the country against outside threat.

Seen in this light one can imagine the Iranian authorities being willing to absorb considerable economic pain to pursue their nuclear research effort.

The sanctions were formally adopted at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday.

Iran had "failed to restore international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme", British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a joint statement.

"We will not accept Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. Iran has so far had no regard for its international obligations and is already exporting and threatening violence around its region," the leaders added.

The measures were "another strong step in the international effort to dramatically increase the pressure on Iran", US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog has confirmed it is sending a team to Iran between 29 and 31 January "to resolve all outstanding substantive issues".

Last November the IAEA said in a report that it had information suggesting Iran had carried out tests "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device".

Tehran insists its nuclear programme is for energy purposes.

Earlier on Monday, the Pentagon said the US aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, as well as a British Royal Navy frigate and a French warship, had passed through the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Gulf without incident, following Iranian threats to block the trade route.

Russian opposition

The EU said the sanctions prohibit the import, purchase and transport of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products as well as related finance and insurance. All existing contracts will have to be phased out by 1 July.

Investment as well as the export of key equipment and technology for Iran's petrochemical sector is also banned.

Iran oil exports

BBC Europe Editor Gavin Hewitt says it is one of the toughest steps the EU has ever taken.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the purpose of the sanctions was "to put pressure on Iran to come back to the negotiating table".

Earlier, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said the embargo showed "the resolve of the European Union on this issue".

"It is absolutely right to do this when Iran is continuing to breach United Nations resolutions," he added.

The BBC's James Reynolds visits Dubai where many people export goods to Iran

But the Russian foreign ministry said it was a "deeply mistaken" move that would not encourage Iran to return to the negotiating table.

"It's apparent that in this case there is open pressure and diktat, aimed at "punishing" Iran," it said in a statement.

BBC Iran correspondent James Reynolds says the decision may damage the Iranian economy - but in itself it won't destroy it.

Iran sells most of its oil to countries in Asia. The EU and the United States are now working to persuade Asian countries to reduce their purchases from Iran as well.

Iran has already threatened to retaliate by blocking the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Gulf, through which 20% of the world's oil exports pass.

The US has said it will keep the trade route open, raising the possibility of a confrontation.

Late last year Iran conducted 10 days of military exercises near the Strait of Hormuz, test-firing several missiles.

Oil prices have risen already because of the increasing tension and the expected impact of an EU ban on oil supplies to Europe.

Map A French warship also accompanied US and UK naval vessels through the Strait of Hormuz on Monday
 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 304.

    We make dodgy countries powerful by buying oil from them. Soon enough they will turn around and bite us

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 303.

    297.SocialReject

    (remember those big, bad and evil Russians that never existed?)

    Erm... I'm pretty sure that Russians exist...

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 302.

    why don't we just swap our nuclear bombs for their oil?
    attack them claiming they have W O M D's steal back the bombs and all their stuff?
    of course! we don't need to give them the weapons first, instead promise them to some puppet regime we think we can control, to whip up a frenzy there first.
    What's that you say won't that ruin the whole nation
    Oh well nothing new there then.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 301.

    I would ask all ..............who is the one and only country to have used a nuclear weapon?..... and just who are they, to dictate to ANY other country in the world as to what weapons they can possess?
    As Brits we should be ashamed of ourselves supporting any country that has actually USED one of these terrible weapons.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 300.

    TV_As eyes.(Abrahamic) sorry i havent a clue what it means. i havent a clue on religion, i just see its affects on life. that prob makes me a realist. but i would rather that than live my life on the premis that there is something better, it would be nice but if there was then i think someone would have popped back by now to say yes heaven is fab. but the only ones who say that are the living.

 

Comments 5 of 304

 

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