Iran nuclear
Satellite imagery of an Iranian military site linked to suspected work on nuclear arms shows strong evidence of a cleanup. Photo by AP
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Parliament speaker Ali Larijani in parliament in Tehran, Iran, March 14, 2012. Photo by AP

U.S. warnings of the possibility of a military strike against Iran are void, and only meant to undermine the stability of other nations, a senior Iranian official told the state-run television outlet Press TV on Thursday.

The comment by Iran's parliamentary speaker came as diplomatic efforts to solve the decade-long stand-off altered at a round of talks between Iran and the West in Moscow this month, with Israel renewing threats to attack Iran if it fails to rein in its nuclear work.

Last week, American officials and experts urged U.S. President Barack Obama to take a tougher stance on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, with some advising the administration to provide Israel with the arms needed for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

The missive included specific demands to be met by Tehran in case of a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff, saying that among "the absolute minimum steps it [Iran] must take immediately are shutting down the Fordo nuclear facility, freezing enrichment above 5 percent, and shipping all uranium enriched above five percent out of the country."

At the hearing of the House Armed Services Committee titled "Addressing the Iranian Nuclear Challenge: Understanding the Military Option," former Senator Charles Robb of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) urged in his testimony that "the dual approach of diplomacy and sanctions simply have not proved to be enough. We need the third track, and that is credible and visible preparations for a military option."

Speaking on the possibility of military action against Iran's nuclear program, Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani discounted the possibility of U.S. action against the Islamic Republic, saying: “When George W. Bush was the U.S. president, Iran received information through different ways about their [Americans] intention to attack Iran."

"But did they carry out any attack? Ninty-nine percent of U.S. threats have not been practical,” Larijani was cited as saying by Press TV.

Referring to statements concerning Iran's nuclear program made by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the senior Iranian official said that "no one pays attention to them."

"No one heeds the U.S. officials’ threats because they make such remarks to undermine countries," he added.

On Tuesday, Iran urged the European Union to reconsider an embargo on Iranian oil thatcomes into effect on July 1, saying it wanted engagement and not confrontation with the bloc.

EU governments on Monday formally approved the embargo, dismissing calls by debt-ridden Greece for exemptions to help ease its economic crisis.

"We hope that the European Union looks into the matter with more rationality and wisdom because I think nobody benefits from confrontation," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told journalists in Cyprus.

"The benefit lies in engagement, and I think they are on the wrong track."
Salehi said he hoped that Cyprus, which takes over the rotating EU presidency on July 1, could help "mitigate and alleviate" obstacles in the relationship between Iran and the bloc.

There was no immediate comment from Cypriot authorities.

EU governments warned Iran on Monday that more pressure could be applied if it continued to defy demands for limits on its nuclear program, which they say is geared to developing weapons. The Islamic Republic says its nuclear activity is for electricity production and other peaceful ends only.

U.S. gives China exemption from Iran sanctions

Speaking of the issue of Iran sanctions on Thursday, Clinton a waiver for Singapore and China from economic restrictions on trade with Iran, bringing to 20 a number of countries that are exempt from punishment for importing Iranian oil.

In a phone briefing on Thursday, an Obama administration official said that China had reduced its Iranian oil imports by 25% between January to May this year. The waiver is subject to renewal every 180 days. In 2011, Iran’s crude oil exports in 2011 stood approximately on 2.5 million barrels per day, this year they have dropped to about 1.5 million barrels per day.

The administration official said that "the sanctions that the U.S. and its international partners have imposed on Iran are having a severe and growing impact - decisions by all the major importers of Iranian crude oil to significantly reduce their purchases will mean a sharp drop in Iran’s crude oil exports. This will cost Iran at least $8 billion in lost revenues each quarter, according to the IEA."

He added that "sanctions against investments and the provision of goods and services for Iran’s oil and gas developmental activities have also had a significant impact - Iran’s inability to gain access to capital and technology has led to a steady decline in its oil production, which is devastating in the long run for an economy so dependent on oil revenues."

Another official on the call said that "what we are seeing and continue to see increasingly as it moves forward is it become increasingly difficult for Iran to support the rial. And already since September, the Rial has lost 40 percent of its value. It’s going to become increasingly difficult for Iran to finance its trade".

Commenting on the next round of talks with Iran in Istanbul, the official said that "this will be an opportunity to sit down at the expert level and review the various proposals that have been made. Our position, the United States together with the P5-plus-1, has been that the onus is on the Iranian government to demonstrate a sense of purpose, a seriousness in these discussions and to indicate that they are prepared to take concrete steps to come in line with their international obligations. They have yet to do so. Istanbul is another opportunity for Iran to move in the right direction."