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Iran Threatens To Stop Gulf Oil If Sanctions Widened

TEHRAN – Iran threatened on Tuesday to stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz if foreign sanctions were imposed on its crude exports over its nuclear ambitions, a move that could trigger military conflict with economies dependent on Gulf oil.

Western tensions with Iran have increased since a November 8 report by the UN nuclear watchdog saying Tehran appears to have worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be pursuing research to that end. Iran strongly denies this and says it is developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Iran has defiantly expanded nuclear activity despite four rounds of UN sanctions meted out since 2006 over its refusal to suspend sensitive uranium enrichment and open up to UN nuclear inspectors and investigators.

Many diplomats and analysts believe only sanctions targeting Iran’s lifeblood oil sector might be painful enough to make it change course, but Russia and China – big trade partners of Tehran – have blocked such a move at the United Nations.

Iran’s warning on Tuesday came three weeks after EU foreign ministers decided to tighten sanctions over the UN watchdog report and laid out plans for a possible embargo of oil from the world’s No. 5 crude exporter.

“If they (the West) impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz,” the official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi as saying. EU ministers said on December 1 that a decision on further sanctions would be taken no later than their January meeting but left open the idea of an embargo on Iranian oil.

Countries in the 27-member European Union take 450,000 barrels per day of Iranian oil, about 18 percent of the Islamic Republic’s exports, much of which go to China and India.

China, the biggest buyer of Iranian crude, has warned against “emotionally charged actions” that might aggravate tension in the nuclear standoff with Iran.

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