Iran warns Gulf Arabs on oil

CAIRO (AP) — Iran warned Gulf Arab oil producers against boosting production to offset any potential drop in Tehran’s crude exports in the event of an embargo affecting its oil sales, the latest salvo in the dispute between the West and the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program.

The comments by Iran’s OPEC governor, published Sunday, came as Saudi Arabia’s oil minister was quoted the same day denying that his country’s earlier pledges to boost output as needed to meet global demand was linked to a potential siphoning of Iranian crude from the market because of sanctions.

World oil markets have been jolted over concerns that Iran may choke off the vital Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for sanctions hampering its ability to sell its oil. Saudi Arabia and other key Gulf Arab producers have recently said they are ready to provide stable and secure supplies of oil.

The U.S. recently imposed sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank and, by extension, refiners’ ability to buy and pay for crude. The European Union is also weighing an embargo on Iranian oil, while Japan, one of Iran’s top Asian customers, has pledged to buy less crude from the country.

Mohammad Ali Khatibi, Iran’s OPEC governor, was quoted Sunday by the pro-reform Shargh newspaper as saying that attempts by Gulf nations to replace Iran’s output with their own would make them an “accomplice in further events.”

“These acts will not be considered friendly,” Khatibi said, adding that if the Arab producers “apply prudence and announce that they will not participate in replacing oil, then adventurist countries will not show interest,” in the embargo.

The embargo concerns are linked to Iran’s nuclear program. The West maintains Iran is enriching uranium for weapons purposes while Tehran says its program is for purely peaceful purposes such as generating electricity.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer and a close U.S. ally, had said that it was ready to raise its output to accommodate global market needs. The country is the only member of the 12-nation Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that has significant spare capacity, currently estimated at roughly more than 2 million barrels per day.

With concerns building amid the standoff between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear program, a string of Asian and Western officials have visited Saudi Arabia over the past week. While offering assurances that it could meet a shortfall in supply through its spare capacity, Saudi officials have also been careful to say that it was an internal matter if nations chose to abide by any sanctions.

UK: Europe to adopt sanctions on Iranian oil

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s foreign secretary said Sunday that European nations will intensify pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, but insisted the West wasn’t pressing for military action.

William Hague told Sky News television that he believed the European Union would agree tough new sanctions against Tehran’s oil sector later this month, and would continue to look for peaceful methods of persuading Iran to ditch its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

Iran insists its nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes, but the West and others accuse it of attempting to build a bomb. Britain’s defense secretary Philip Hammond said earlier this month that Tehran was working “flat out” on its weapons program.

“We have never ruled anything out. We have not ruled out any option, or supporting any option. We believe all options should be on the table, that is part of the pressure on Iran, but we are clearly not calling for or advocating military action,” Hague said.

“We are advocating meaningful negotiations, if Iran will enter into them, and the increasing pressure of sanctions to try to get some flexibility from Iran,” he said.

European officials have worked for several months on banning the purchase of Iranian oil, and are expected to agree to the measures at a meeting of foreign ministers on Jan. 23.

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