Iranian oil platform, Iran flag.
(photo credit: Reuters)
TEHRAN - Iran's oil minister said the Islamic state would not retreat from its nuclear program even if its crude oil exports grind to a halt, the official IRNA news agency reported on Saturday.
But he also called on the European Union, which accounted for a quarter of Iranian crude oil sales in the third quarter of 2011, to review its decision last week to bank Iranian oil imports from July 1.
"We will not abandon our just nuclear course, even if we cannot sell one drop of oil," Rostam Qasemi told reporters, according to IRNA.
Tension with the West rose last month when Washington and the European Union imposed the toughest sanctions yet on Iran in a bid to force it to provide more information on its nuclear program. The measures are aimed at shutting off the second-biggest OPEC oil exporters' sales of crude.
Qasemi said Iran would cut oil exports to some nations in Europe - he did not specify which - in retaliation for the 27-state EU's decision to stop importing Iranian crude.
"Our oil exports will certainly be cut to some European countries ... We will decide about other European countries later," Qasemi told a news conference, IRNA reported.
He urged Europe to reconsider its ban, and said the oil market is in balance now but would be thrown into turmoil without Iranian crude supplies.
"Unfortunately the EU has succumbed to America's pressure. I hope they would review their decision on sanctioning Iran's oil exports," Qasemi said.
"The international crude market will experience turmoil in the absence of Iranian oil with unforeseen consequences on oil prices," he said.
However, analysts say the global oil market would not be greatly affected if Iran were to turn off the oil tap to Europe.
The EU's ban on Iranian oil came after US President Barack Obama signed new sanctions into law on New Year's Eve that would block any institution dealing with Iran's central bank from the US financial system.
If fully implemented, these measures will make it impossible for countries to buy Iranian oil.
Isolated Iran is also facing problems over the price it charges neighbor Turkey for its natural gas exports. Turkey said on Jan. 31 that it was taking Tehran to international arbitration over the matter.
Qasemi rejected Ankara's complaint that the price was too high. "Iran surely cannot decrease its natural gas price (for Turkey) without legal authorization," he said.
Iran exports 10 billion cubic meters of gas each year to Turkey, making it Ankara's second-biggest supplier after Russia.