Iran official: Oil ban could expand to more 'hostile' EU countries
Comment by Tehran's oil ministry comes after Iran announced it would cease the sale of crude oil to British; Iranian forces commence drill aimed at improving air defense of nuclear sites.
Iran could halt oil supply to more European countries following its recent announcement to ban on oil sales to British and French companies, an Iranian official indicated on Monday, warning EU states from continuing their "hostile actions."
Earlier Monday, China rebuked Iran's move Sunday to stop oil sales to U.K. and French companies, calling for renewed efforts at dialogue over an escalating stand-off over Tehran's controversial nuclear program.
The Iranian measure was seen as retaliation to the European Union's decision to impose a boycott on its oil from July 1. Iran, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, responded by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, the main Gulf oil shipping lane.
Remarking on the recently announced oil ban, Iran's deputy Oil Minister Ahmad Qalebani told the country's state-run TV on Monday that “undoubtedly if the hostile actions of certain European countries continue, oil exports to these countries will be stopped."
Qalebani's comments came as another Iranian official referred to tensions on the Strait of Hormuz, and the possible blocking of the oil shipping waterway.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Iranian Revolutionary Guard drill on Monday, the commander of Iran's elite military corps Mohammad Ali Jafari blamed the turmoil concerning Hormuz on western aggression, vowing to maintain Iranian security.
“Despite the opposition of and threats made by the global arrogance and Zionism against the Iranian nation, we do not consider [the possibility of] a threat void and will continue to prepare [our] forces,” Jafari told Press TV.
Iran has ramped up rhetoric in recent weeks while also expressing willingness to resume negotiations on its nuclear program. Western powers have cautiously not ruled out the use of force if the program continues. But speculation is high Israel may attack nuclear facilities in Iran.
On Monday, Iran's official news agency IRNA announced that the coutnry's armed forces had begun a four-day military exercise aimed at improving defense mechanisms at its nuclear sites.
The exercises were being held over large areas of southern Iran and were meant as preparation for a probable military strike, said a military statement carried by IRNA. No further details were given.