Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani appeared Tuesday to threaten to disrupt oil shipments from neighboring countries if Washington presses ahead with its goal of forcing all countries to stop buying Iranian oil.
The comments, published on Iran’s presidential website Tuesday and partially repeated at a later news conference in Switzerland, could be open to interpretation. However, when asked whether he intended to make a threat, Rouhani declined to provide a clarification.
Iranian officials in the past have threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil-shipping route, in retaliation for any hostile U.S. action against Iran.
“The Americans have claimed they want to completely stop Iran’s oil exports. They don’t understand the meaning of this statement, because it has no meaning for Iranian oil not to be exported, while the region’s oil is exported,” the website, president.ir, quoted him as saying.
When asked at a news conference in Bern later Tuesday whether those comments constituted a threat to interfere with the shipping of neighboring countries, Rouhani said: “Assuming that Iran could become the only oil producer unable to export its oil is a wrong assumption ... The United States will never be able to cut Iran’s oil revenues.”
The United States pulled out of a multinational deal in May to lift sanctions against Iran in return for curbs to its nuclear program. Washington has since told countries they must halt all imports of Iranian oil from Nov. 4 or face U.S. financial measures, with no exemptions.
Rouhani said that the new U.S. pressure would never succeed. “It is incorrect and unwise to imagine that some day all producer countries will be able to export their surplus oil and Iran will not be able to export its oil,” he said. The Iranian president is in Europe to gather support ahead of a meeting later this week between Iran and the five global powers that are still party to the 2015 nuclear deal.“Iran will remain committed to the deal, as long as its interests are preserved,” Rouhani said. Tehran said its foreign minister would meet counterparts from U.S. allies Britain, France and Germany, as well as Russia and China, in Vienna Friday to discuss ways of maintaining the nuclear deal.
The five other powers have said they still support the deal despite the U.S. decision to withdraw. Iran has asked the European countries to come up with a new economic package to offset the U.S. sanctions and preserve the accord.
“At the meeting ... foreign ministers of Iran and five world powers will discuss a proposed European package and measures to protect the agreement,” Iranian state news agency IRNA said Tuesday. Swiss President Alain Berset, speaking next to Rouhani in Bern, called the nuclear deal “an unparalleled success” that needed to be preserved. Berset noted that in bilateral talks he underscored “the need to recognize the state of Israel,” prompting a reply from Rouhani that Tehran viewed “the Zionist regime as an illegitimate regime.”
Iran, the third-largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, exports about 2 million barrels of crude oil per day.
The White House said Saturday that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman had promised Trump that he can raise oil production if needed.
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