Iraq's envoy to the Arab League said it would invite Arab states to use oil as a weapon to press for a halt to Israeli attacks on Gaza, but later appeared to withdraw the remark, saying Baghdad would make no particular proposal to a League meeting.
"The Iraqi representative to the Arab League Qais el-Azzawy denies that there is a proposal by Iraq to the Arab foreign ministers meeting tomorrow (Saturday) that will specifically look into the Israeli aggression on Gaza," Azzawy said in a statement emailed to Reuters by a media assistant.
Azzawy had earlier told reporters in Cairo, the Arab League headquarters: "Iraq will invite (Arab) ministers to use the weapon of oil, with the aim of asserting real pressure on the United States and whoever stands with Israel.
He continued: "The economic weapon is the strongest one to be put into effect now, to assure (we are) standing by the Palestinian people, in light of there being no military power that can stand in the face of Israel at the present time."
He spoke a day after Lebanese Hezbollah militant leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah urged Arab states to use all political means possible, including raising oil prices, to end Israeli attacks on Gaza, suggesting this could be as effective as military action against the Jewish state.
Twenty-four Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed in three days of Israeli bombardments and Palestinian rocket salvoes into Israel, escalating a long-running conflict between Islamist Hamas militants ruling Gaza and the Jewish state.
Fighting intensified after Israel killed the Hamas military commander in an air strike on his car, following weeks of increased rocket fire from Gaza militants into Israel.
Asked about Azzawi's initial remarks, a senior Gulf Arab oil official said regional exporters would be unlikely to approve. "None of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) producers will go along with this. It's a political move. It's not serious."
Simon Wardell, oil analyst, IHS Global Insight, said: "At a time when the big story is the rise of shale oil and shale gas in the United States and the potential for the U.S. to become sustainable in terms of its ability to consume oil, Arab countries will be keen to ensure they don't accelerate that any further and push the prices higher.
He added: "It may be that given the political situation in the Gulf since the Arab Spring this kind of thing (oil as weapon) may have more resonance locally than it has in the past. But I still think the old ways will stand and they will be reluctant to try and constrain oil supplies in an effort to put pressure on the United States, given that ultimately this is something I think they recognise as self-defeating."
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