Israel´s Barak, on Japan Visit, Urges More Pressure on Iran (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By CHESTER DAWSON TOKYO, JAPAN 02/20/12)
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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
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
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
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.)
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