Iran threatens to extend oil embargo (GUARDIAN UK) Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem 02/21/12)
GUARDIAN UK Articles-Index-Top
• More European countries may have oil supplies halted
• Military exercise begins to strengthen key nuclear facilities
• Foreign minister says UN inspectors will not visit sites
Iran has warned it may extend an oil embargo imposed on Britain and
France to other European countries, and launched a military exercise
to strengthen key nuclear sites against air strikes as a team of UN
inspectors arrived in the country.
Herman Nackaerts, the leader of the five-member UN team, said he
wanted concrete results from the two-day visit, the second within a
month. But, amid scepticism that inspectors would be permitted access
to nuclear facilities, Nackaerts added that progress "may take a
The team is hoping to question Iranian nuclear scientists and visit
the Parchin military base, where high-explosive tests are thought to
have been conducted. But Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran´s foreign minister,
told a student news agency that the officials would not be inspecting
In a sign of mounting tensions in the region, Iran began a four-day
military exercise in the south of the country to "practise co-
ordination between the Revolutionary Guards and regular army and air
defence units in establishing a defence umbrella over our vital
centres, particularly nuclear facilities", according to a military
statement quoted by an Iranian news agency.
Missiles, anti-aircraft artillery, radars and warplanes were being
deployed, it said.
At the same time, Iran´s deputy oil minister warned that the decision
to halt supplies to Britain and France, announced at the weekend,
could be applied to other European countries. "Undoubtedly, if the
hostile actions of certain European countries continue, oil exports
to these countries will be stopped," Ahmad Qalebani told state TV.
The threat to extend the embargo defied China´s disapproval of Iran´s
measure. "We have consistently upheld dialogue and negotiation as the
way to resolve disputes between countries, and do not approve of
exerting pressure or using confrontation to resolve issues," the
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in response to the
ban on oil sales to British and French firms.
The Iranian move was prompted by anger at a European Union decision
to stop buying oil from the Islamic Republic from 1 July as part of a
programme of toughened sanctions. The European commission said on
Monday that Belgium, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands had
already stopped buying Iranian oil, while Greece, Spain and Italy
were cutting back on purchases.
However, Qalebani insisted that demand for Iranian crude oil had
In Jerusalem, Israel´s deputy prime minister, Dan Meridor, said
Iran´s actions in recent weeks indicated that sanctions were
beginning to have an effect. "The hysteria we see in Iran is a good
indication, a symptom of what this regime is going through ... All
this shows the pressure which this regime is under, but they have not
yet decided to shut down their nuclear effort, so the struggle is
on," he told the foreign press. "I think there is a chance of success
[for sanctions] if they are done with determination, persistence and
Meridor, who is known to be more cautious than Israel´s prime
minister and defence minister on the issue of a military strike,
repeatedly emphasised that sanctions should be given the chance to
work. But, despite the international "community of interests", he
said it was possible that Israel would have to stand alone to halt
the suspected Iranian nuclear programme.
However, a report in the New York Times suggested that the Israeli
military would face a "huge and highly complex operation" to hit
Iranian nuclear targets. The report quoted US defence officials and
military analysts, who questioned whether Israel had the military
capability for such an operation; some voiced concern that the US
could be sucked into finishing the job.
Israel would need to deploy at least 100 planes, flying a round trip
of more than 2,000 miles, requiring mid-air refuelling and likely to
come under anti-aircraft fire.
"Another major hurdle is Israel´s inventory of bombs capable of
penetrating the Natanz facility, believed to be buried under 30ft of
reinforced concrete, and the Fordo site, which is built into a
mountain," said the report. It was not clear if Israel´s arsenal of
US-made "bunker buster" bombs could penetrate deep enough.
The US has urged Israel to hold back from military action, fearing a
strike could embroil the region in a spiralling war. Barack Obama´s
national security adviser, Tom Donilon, met Israel´s defence
minister, Ehud Barak, in Jerusalem on Monday to reinforce the message
President Obama is to meet Binyamin Netanyahu at the White House on 5
March, when the Israeli prime minister visits Washington for the
annual conference of the pro-Israel lobby group, Aipac. Iran will top
the agenda of the two leaders´ talks. (guardian.co.uk © Guardian News
and Media Limited 2012 02/21/12)
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