Iran says sanctions to fail, repeats Hormuz threat
By Mitra Amiri
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian politicians said on Tuesday they expected the European Union to backtrack on its oil embargo and repeated a threat to close the vital Strait of Hormuz shipping lane if the West succeeds in preventing Tehran from exporting crude.
"The West's ineffective sanctions against the Islamic state are not a threat to us. They are opportunities and have already brought lots of benefits to the country," Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi told the official IRNA news agency.
Speaking a day after the EU slapped a ban on Iranian oil - to take full effect within six months - in a move to press Tehran into curbing its contested nuclear program and engage in negotiations with six world powers, the tone in the Islamic Republic was defiant, even skeptical.
"The global economic situation is not one in which a country can be destroyed by imposing sanctions," Moslehi said, repeating Iran's stance that with the EU in economic and monetary crisis, it needs Iran's oil more than Iran needs its business.
A spokesman for the oil ministry said Iran had had plenty of time to prepare for the sanctions and would find alternative customers for the 18 percent of its exports that up to now have gone to the 27-nation European bloc.
"The first phase of this (sanctions action) is propaganda, only then it will enter the implementation phase. That is why they put in this six months period, to study the market," Alireza Nikzad Rahbar said, predicting the embargo could be rescinded before it takes force completely.
"This market will harm them because oil is getting more expensive and when oil gets more expensive it will harm the people of Europe," state TV quoted him as saying. "We hope that in these six months they will choose the right path."
The embargo will not kick in completely until July 1 because the bloc's foreign ministers who agreed the ban at a meeting in Brussels were anxious not to penalize the ailing economies of Greece, Italy and others to whom Iran is a major oil supplier.
The strategy will be reviewed in May to see if it should proceed.