TEHRAN: Iranian oil minister Masoud Mirkazemi said on Thursday plans by world powers to choke off fuel supplies to Iran was a “joke.”
“This talk of imposing sanctions on gasoline has become a joke,” Mirkazemi told reporters on the sidelines of Iran’s annual international oil exhibition being held in Tehran. Mirkazemi said the presence of several foreign companies at the exhibition despite talks of restrictions by Western countries “show that sanctions and restrictions are ineffective.”
Western countries led by Washington have stepped up global efforts to impose a fourth round of UN sanctions against Iran for pursuing its sensitive uranium enrichment programme. Among measures mentioned by top Western officials are restrictions on fuel to Iran, which despite being OPEC’s second largest oil exporter lacks refineries and is forced to import nearly 40 percent of its gasoline. Iranian officials are adamant they have no difficulties in importing gasoline, saying Iranian refineries are such that they can “modify their production lines” to meet domestic needs.
European diplomats have been reported as saying that the new sanctions would comprise a full arms embargo, a ban on new investments in Iran’s energy sector, restrictions on shipping and finance as well sanctions targeting the business interests of the Islamic republic’s powerful Revolutionary Guards. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that the UN Security Council cannot wait indefinitely for Iran to heed the warnings of the international community.
“If we are talking about a situation where everything stays as it is, in a dead-end state, then I don’t think the Security Council will observe this for too long without intervening,” Lavrov said in televised comments. Lavrov made the remarks at a joint press conference with visiting Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith. “We have a position that follows, first of all and principally, the aim of carrying out those decisions that were taken by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which were then supported by the UN Security Council,” Lavrov said.
The comments were apparently a reference to an IAEAbrokered plan to defuse the Iranian nuclear crisis by taking low-enriched uranium out of Iran for further enrichment and processing abroad.