Khamenei: Iran Could Cut Europe’s Access to Gas if Sanctions not Lifted

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A handout picture released on February 8, 2015 by the official website of the Center for Preserving and Publishing the Works of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, shows him on stage during a meeting with Iranian air force commanders in Tehran. AFP.

Published Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed on Wednesday that his country would resist global sanctions imposed over its nuclear program, saying that Iran might respond to international pressure by cutting back gas exports.

"The enemy is using the lever of sanctions to the hilt and their goal is to stop our people's progress," Khamenei said in a public speech in Tehran, according to IRNA news agency.

"I believe that if we allow them to dictate to us on the nuclear issue, they will still keep the sanctions in place because what they are against is the very foundation of our revolution."

Iran is in talks with the "P5+1" group, including the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, to end a decade-old standoff over its nuclear program which the West fears could be used to develop a nuclear bomb. Iran has repeatedly denied having any nuclear weapons ambitions and is seeking an end to international sanctions.

"Serious work must take place. We can withstand the sanctions and neutralize and foil the enemy's goals. If we don't, the enemy would proceed and place conditions on our nuclear program and impose sanctions," Khamenei said.

"If sanctions are to be the way, the Iranian nation can also do it. A big collection of the world's oil and gas is in Iran, so Iran if necessary can hold back on the gas that Europe and the world is so dependent on."

The same remark was posted on Khamenei’s official Twitter account.

Iran produces 2.7 million barrels of oil per day, mainly for domestic consumption. It also produces 600 million cubic meters of gas per day, of which 500 million cubic meters is consumed domestically — although Iranian officials say they plan to double gas production in two years.

Khamenei also said the United States, which has waged airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), had written to Tehran about tackling the radical Islamist group. But he accused Washington of secretly supporting ISIS fighters.

"They wrote a letter to the Iranian foreign ministry promising not to support Daesh, not knowing that the evidence in photographs of their military assistance to Daesh was already in the hands of the revolutionary forces (Iraq's pro-government militia)," Khamenei said using another acronym for ISIS.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry also criticized the European Union on Wednesday over the re-imposition of sanctions on the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), Iran's biggest tanker company.

"This is a political measure and it is in contradiction with the nature of the nuclear talks," foreign minister spokesperson Marzieh Afkham was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying.

European Union governments are expected to agree to put the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), Iran's biggest tanker company, back on a list of sanctioned firms, diplomats said on February 12.

During the last decade, new sets of sanctions were imposed on Iran. Besides the unilateral EU and US sanctions, which paralyzed Iran’s economy, UN passed eight resolutions that slapped tough sanctions on Iran.

Few areas of Iran's economy have remained untouched by the sanctions. The sanctions have severely curbed Iran's oil trade as well as the import and export of natural gas, and have also affected the country’s banking sector.

Tightening international sanctions against Iran pushed up inflation and further eroded the country's currency. Since 2011, The official inflation rate has jumped from single digits to around 20 percent; analysts think the real rate is higher.

Iran's currency has also reportedly lost 80 percent of its value since the end of 2011. Iranian officials have stressed that the Western powers’ use of sanctions is against the international laws and the universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In February 2014, the "P5+1" group reached an interim agreement with Iran, officially titled the Joint Plan of Action. According to the agreement, Iran suspended its most sensitive nuclear activity, which was 20 percent uranium enrichment.

Western countries in turn eased some economic sanctions as both parties continued working on a long-term agreement. In November, the two sides failed for a second time to meet a self-imposed deadline for ending the standoff and the preliminary accord was extended until June 30, 2015.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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