Home  > Israel-News Today  > Week in Review
Israel´s Barak, on Japan Visit, Urges More Pressure on Iran (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By CHESTER DAWSON TOKYO, JAPAN 02/20/12)Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204880404577230871356966362.html?KEYWORDS=Israel WALL STREET JOURNAL WALL STREET JOURNAL Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
TOKYO—Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barak called on Saturday during a visit to Japan for an "urgent" tightening of sanctions targeting Iran´s oil exports and access to global financial clearinghouses, urging his Japanese hosts to put more pressure on Tehran to dissuade it from developing nuclear weapons.

"We have to increase the pace of imposing sanctions" on Iran´s oil, central bank and access to international credit, Mr. Barak said at a news conference in Tokyo. "This should be done determinedly and in a conclusive manner and urgently."

Iran, meanwhile, on Sunday struck back at international pressure, saying it had stopped selling its crude oil to French and British companies, a move that seems likely to have little direct impact on European supplies.

The U.K. doesn´t import Iranian oil, and Total SA—the largest French oil company and once the main importer of Iranian oil to France— stopped purchases from Tehran in late 2011.

In addition, the European Union last month decided to ban all purchases of Iranian oil for EU countries, though the measure won´t be fully in force until July 1.

On Friday, the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide International Financial Telecommunication, or Swift, said it would prepare to stop blacklisted Iranian banks from accessing its financial communications and clearing systems, which could seriously impede Iran´s ability to pay for imports and get payment for exports.

Mr. Barak, who also serves as Israel´s defense minister, made his remarks during a five-day visit to Japan that included meetings with senior Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka. It is the first visit to Japan by an Israeli defense minister in 18 years. Mr. Noda told Mr. Barak on Wednesday that Japan would reduce its imports of Iranian oil, but Mr. Gemba warned Mr. Barak that using military force against Iran may be counterproductive, Kyodo News reported.

Mr. Barak didn´t comment directly on his meetings with Japanese officials, but his message was clear as he reiterated Israeli´s position of not ruling out a military option if sanctions fail to persuade Iran to abandon a suspected nuclear-weapons development program. "When we say that we will not leave any option off the table, we mean it," he said.

Iranian oil makes up only about 10% of Japan´s total imports, but 80% of Japanese oil imports pass through the Strait of Hormuz, which Tehran has threatened to close.

Iran draws the vast majority of its export revenues from oil sales. In a statement posted on the Iranian oil ministry´s website, its spokesman, Ali Reza Nikzad, said "exporting crude to British and French companies has been halted.…We will sell our oil to new customers."

A spokesperson for Italy´s Eni SpA, which continues getting crude from Tehran in payment for past works on Iranian fields, couldn´t immediately comment on the Iranian move. A spokesman for Repsol YPF SA, Spain´s largest oil company, also had no comment.

France imported 75,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil in the third quarter of last year, according to the EU´s statistics body, Eurostat. But Total, which imported virtually all the Iranian oil destined for the French market for its refineries, stopped buying crude in December.

A French foreign ministry spokesman last week declined to comment on whether France still imports any Iranian oil. The U.K. cut its imports to zero in the third quarter, according to Eurostat.

Mr. Barak also said that embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime may be toppled from power in a matter of "weeks" amid growing protests, noting that he doesn´t expect the current government in Syria would survive into 2013. —Benoit Faucon contributed to this article. (Copyright © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.) 02/20/12)


Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY