Iran: EU oil embargo 'economic war'

TEHRAN, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- A planned European oil embargo and other efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program, including new U.S. sanctions, are "economic war," a top Iranian official said.

"The enemies of the Islamic republic's regime, with all their tricks, have not been able to chain the nation and now they want to chain the economy," Finance Minister Shamseddin Hosseini said Thursday in comments carried by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.


"These sanctions are an economic war against us," he said.

European Union and U.S. officials had no immediate comment.

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Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran had already "taken provisional measures" and was fully prepared to "weather the storm," which includes an imminent EU ban on its oil as well as U.S. sanctions signed into law New Year's Eve by President Barack Obama.

"Iran, with divine assistance, has always been ready to counter such hostile actions, and we are not concerned at all about the sanctions," Salehi told a Tehran news conference Thursday.

Oil represents about 60 percent of Iran's economy and oil exports are a vital source of foreign currency.

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European countries bought about 18 percent of Iranian oil in 2010, about 450,000 barrels a day, with most of the rest of Iran's 2.6 million daily barrels going to Asia, mostly China and Japan.

Salehi said Iran would like to reopen talks with the West on its nuclear program, suggesting the talks could be held in Turkey. Istanbul was the venue of the last talks that ended in a stalemate.

He appeared at the news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu after Davutoglu conveyed an invitation from EU foreign affairs and security policy representative Catherine Ashton for Iran to restart nuclear talks with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

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Some European diplomats told The New York Times they interpreted Iran's favorable response to the new-talks idea as an effort by Tehran to buy time to continue its program.

Tehran insists its nuclear program is strictly peaceful, but Western countries say a United Nations report shows it seeks to build an atomic bomb.

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