Iranian threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping lane for much of the world's oil, caused oil prices to spike early this year. Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said closing the strait had nothing to do with sanctions, however.
"These two issues are not related and are totally independent of each other," he was quoted by Iran's state-funded broadcaster Press TV as saying. "The existing sanctions are unjust but they have pushed us forward and boosted our capabilities. We are strong enough to leave these sanctions powerfully behind."
Iran, accused of pursuing the technology needed to manufacture a nuclear weapon, last week threatened to stop exporting oil should sanctions pressure continue.
Former Iranian Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi warned that Tehran may use oil as a weapon in response to further sanctions.
The U.S. and European governments have targeted Iran's energy sector to block financing for Iran's controversial nuclear program.
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