Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Iran threatens to cut some oil exports to Europe, touts nuclear advances
TEHRAN (Washington Post) — In a new show of defiance against tightened sanctions, Iran on Wednesday threatened to cut oil exports to several European countries and unveiled controversial advances in its nuclear fuel programs.
In a day of fiery speeches, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also lashed out at the West, condemning the recent assassinations of Iranian scientists.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassadors of six European nations and warned economically weak southern European nations such as Greece and Italy that they must extend their long term oil-purchasing contracts with Iran or face a cutoff, the semiofficial Mehr News Agency reported Wednesday
France and the Netherlands, close U.S. allies in supporting international sanctions against the Islamic Republic, were told that they would no longer receive any oil at all, the agency reported.
Earlier, the official Press TV said Iran would stop exporting oil to Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Greece and Portugal. The announcement helped drive the price of crude to nearly $102 a barrel Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. Europe accounts for about 18 percent of Iran’s crude exports, with Greece, Italy and Spain among the main buyers, AP said.
Another Iranian media outlet, Fars News Agency, quoted an Oil Ministry source as saying that the exports to Europe have not been stopped yet but that Iran has given an ultimatum to those countries to continue their long-term contracts. Iran’s Arabic -language state television channel al-Alam said the ministry would provide more details Thursday.
Iran’s move was aimed at preempting a European Union boycott of Iranian oil, which is scheduled to start in July.
The threatened cutoff was announced after state media reported that Iran has started loading fuel rods into an aging nuclear reactor used to make medical isotopes. While official media had reported that Ahmadinejad would also formally declare fully operational the underground Fordow uranium-enrichment facility, he did not mention the complex in his speech.
Ahmadinejad unveiled the nuclear projects Wednesday in a Tehran ceremony broadcast live on state television. They include a line of new carbon fiber centrifuges, which state television said have more output and enrich uranium faster than older centrifuges.
The developments had been previously announced or alluded to by Iranian officials, though with less fanfare than was on display during Wednesday’s broadcast, which featured Ahmadinejad in a white lab coat and portraits of Iran’s recently slain nuclear scientists on prominent display.
State television said each of the projects would adhere to Iran’s nuclear slogan: “nuclear energy for all, nuclear weapons for none.”
In an emotional speech during the ceremony, the mother of Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, a deputy head of the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility who was killed in December, asked her son’s colleagues to follow his path and continue their ground-breaking research. Portraits of her son, smiling while visiting Iranian heritage sites with his family, appeared onscreen as tears ran down the mother’s cheeks. Other scientists in the audience covered their faces with surgical masks, afraid to be recognized and fall victim to the assassination campaign.
at 12:19 PM