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10/18/12

Iranian MPs: We Will Shut the Gas Valve to Europe

By Bahram Rafiei, Rooz Online

As the European Union announced it was imposing more sanctions on the Islamic republic because it was "acting in flagrant violation of its international obligations," which includes more banking restrictions and a ban on the import of Iranian gas to member states, members of Iran's parliament the Majlis responded to the announcement. Some said that Iran was not exporting gas to Europe in the first place while others called for Iran's own ban on gas sales to EU members.

Mohammad Saleh Jowkar said, "The volume of Iran's gas exports to European countries amounts to almost zero," and added, "These sanctions will have no impact on the country's economy and they will also not have any benefits for Europe other than creating an anti-Iranian atmosphere in the diplomatic world."

He differentiated the impact of the earlier EU ban to import Iranian oil from the gas ban and said, "As the winter season approaches, Europe and the West need Iranian oil and gas and even today Europe is witnessing great loss because of the oil ban it has imposed on itself and some of its current economic crises step from these sanctions."

Jowkar, a member of the national security committee of the Majlis, also said, "The preemptive measures of Iran's ministry of oil in not selling oil to those who impose sanctions on us were a suitable measure. This policy should continue in the cold season so that Europe is made to understand that sanctioning Iran will not have a good future for them."

Another member of the Majlis Abdol-Karim Jamiri, a member of the energy committee also responded to EU's announcement and said, "This decision by the EU is merely a propaganda step with the purpose of launching a propaganda war. Through these actions the Europeans intend to create uncertainty among the public and the EU intends to create a propaganda blackmail and political pressure on Iran as a way to create concern among the public. But this will not happen, and even if it does there is no problem in selling Iran's gas."

He also said that currently no Iranian gas was exported to Europe and added, "Just as Iran managed to successfully break the oil sanctions, the gas sanctions which are much lighter will also be circumvented."

Naser Soodani, the deputy chairman of the energy committee of the Majlis also commented on the new EU sanctions and said, "The plan on sanctions over Iranian gas by Europe indicate the complete failure of the earlier-imposed crude oil sanctions." He also announced a plan by the Majlis to pass a resolution banning Iran from exporting any gas to Europe and said, "With finalization of this pre-emptive measure to export gas to Europe, the valves of Iranian oil and gas lines to those countries that have imposed sanctions on Iran will most certainly be shut."

Soodani also said that Iran had the option of "injecting gas into oil wells and produce petrochemical products" as two measures to confront "the new European gas sanctions," adding that the most important importers of Iranian gas were Asian countries such as Pakistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Asia Minor, India and some Arab countries." Soodani boasted that "With thousands of supporters across the world, the Islamic republic had the military might and outstanding human resources had the necessary instruments to defend itself."

According to international news reports, the European Union on Monday launched tighter sanctions against Iran because of the failure of talks with Iran over its nuclear program.

The new round of EU sanctions include measures against banking transactions between Iran and the European banking and financial institutions, gas imports by Europe, industrial items, shipping and sections of the telecommunications, including some more individuals and company affiliated with Iran's nuclear program.

European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in this regard that she hoped the Islamic republic was ready to return to the negotiations table and that it would take the new sanctions seriously. She emphasized that the P+1 countries wanted to see a negotiated agreement on the issue.

The Islamic republic is already under a series of international and bilateral sanctions over its nuclear program and non-compliance with its international obligations in this regard. The latest round of sanctions that were imposed earlier this year have resulted in economic shortages and hyper-inflation prompting the Majlis, the government and the judiciary to hold unofficial and confidential meetings to set up a special group of officials to deal with the situation.

After one of the sessions of this committee, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who at one time had called US Resolutions and the international sanctions to be a "worthless piece of paper" announced that the "government was working 24 hours a day to monitor the events related to the pressures and sanctions of the enemy and has had continuous 4 to 5 hour meetings which have eventually de-charged our batteries."

Last month, Rostam Ghasemi, the oil minister of the Islamic republic was summoned by members of the Majlis and government newspapers quoted him saying, "The Islamic republic was producing and exporting 1.5 million barrels of oil."

But following these remarks, Mohammad-Reza Bahonar, a deputy speaker of the Majlis announced that "oil sales in the month of Tir (June 22 to July 22) stood at about 800,000 barrels a day while about a million barrels of oil were sold in the first 5 months of the year." He also revealed, "Oil sales have dropped so sales are not normal. And Even when sales do take place we cannot easily access the money because of the banking sanctions and so must engage in a series of circumventing actions which overall increase the costs."

He also disclosed that because of the economic problems facing Iran, "50 percent of the economic problems of the day related to sanctions and resolutions against Iran while the other 50 percent were related to domestic issues."

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