Iranian Oil Minister Issues Ultimatum to EU Members

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi called on the European countries to make a final decision on oil imports from Iran, warning that they will be sanctioned by Tehran otherwise.

Iran has recently imposed a ban on oil exports to Britain and France as the main two states which pushed the EU to sanction oil imports from Iran.

Tehran's Sunday decision to cut oil supplies to Britain and France came after the EU member states decided to impose a ban on Iranian oil, but said that they would put their decision into effect after six months in a bid to find a replacement for Iranian energy supplies.

On Tuesday, Qassemi underlined that Tehran has the initiative and would take a relevant decision on the future of crude exports to the EU states if they do not guarantee long-term imports from Iran.

"We make decisions in our own country and we have sanctioned hostile states; if other (European) countries do not specify their decision about long-term oil contracts (with Iran), Tehran will make a decision about them as well," Qassemi told reporters here in Tehran on Tuesday.

Asked about Iran's next move vis-à-vis the western sanctions against the Islamic Republic, the oil minister reiterated, "There is not problem for selling Iranian oil in the international market and we have good customers and friends in this market."

After months of debates, the EU member states reached an agreement in their meeting on January 23 to sanction oil imports from Iran and freeze the assets of Iran's Central Bank within the EU.

Following the move, Tehran summoned the ambassadors of Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Portugal and the Netherlands to protest at the EU's unilateral sanctions against Tehran over its peaceful nuclear program, and warned them that it would soon stop oil exports to these countries if they do not reverse their decision.

Later in January, the Iranian oil ministry in a statement downplayed the effects of the US and EU's unilateral oil sanctions against Tehran, and said such embargoes would merely harm the European economies and oil consuming countries.

European sanctions against Iran's oil exports will affect the world economy and hurt the European and non-European countries, the statement said.

"The hurried decision by the EU states to use oil as a political tool will have a negative impact on the world economy and specially on the recovering European economies which are fighting to overcome the global financial crisis," it added.

The statement continued that since just 18 percent of oil produced by Iran is exported to European countries, the Islamic Republic can easily replace new markets with the European market.

Several European refineries have gone bankrupt and shut down business after Tehran announced in January that it would soon cut supplies to those EU member states which would sign into the new sanctions against Iranian oil.

Also following Iran's move to cut oil sales to British and French firms, the price of Brent crude hit an eight-month high in Asian markets, reaching $123.10 per barrel.

The price of Brent North Sea crude for April delivery climbed by $3.52, media reports said on Monday.