Iran's parliament 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi)
TEHRAN - Iran's parliament voted on Wednesday to review relations with Britain after it imposed sanctions on its central bank, a move described as "vindictive" by a leading lawmaker who called for the British ambassador to be expelled.
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"Britain's government once again showed a depth of hatred and enmity toward the Islamic Republic system worse than that of the devil and it took another step towards being an enemy ... by announcing sanctions on the central bank," said a statement signed by 228 lawmakers and read out in parliament.
Western countries imposed a new wave of sanctions this week to increase the pressure on Tehran to halt its disputed nuclear activities, with Britain banning all transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.
The practical impact of Chancellor George Osborne's announcement may be less than its political resonance as Britain and fellow European Union members already have sanctions in place that restrict financial transactions with Iran.
But naming the central bank is a reminder of Iran's vulnerability if many other countries should follow suit and it outraged politicians in the Islamic Republic.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a crowd near Tehran that the
West aimed to steal Iranians' money to help get out of their own
financial troubles. "Any expropriation of the Iranian people's foreign
exchange reserves is considered major theft and the Iranian people will
treat those who do this as thieves."
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament's foreign relations
committee, called for the British ambassador to be expelled.
"Britain's policy is a hostile one and having normal relations with that
government is meaningless," he said. Parliament will continue debating
the matter on Sunday.US holds back 'nuclear option'
US President Barack Obama said on Monday the United States had "the
entire Iranian banking sector -- including the Central Bank of Iran," in
its sights. But Washington stopped short of sanctioning the central
bank amid fear of the potential impact on the oil market and the global
US officials have considered sanctions that would cut off from the US
financial system any foreign bank that has dealings with the Central
Bank of Iran. Analysts have called that a "nuclear option" due to the
devastating effect it could have on Iran's oil-based economy.
The central bank receives payment for the more than 2 million barrels of
oil Iran exports each day so cutting it off from the global financial
system would be a major blow.
Iran is the world's fifth biggest exporter of crude and any disruption
to its supply could push up oil prices that are already well over $100 a
US and EU sanctions passed in 2010 already stopped most Western banks
dealing with Iran, and pressure from Washington made it temporarily
impossible for Indian oil buyers to pay for some $5 billion (3.2 billion
pounds) of Iranian oil earlier this year.
Iran's central bank chief played down London's move.
"It has been a while that Iran has not had banking relations with
Britain, especially on the level of the central bank," Governor Mahmoud
Bahmani told the semi-official Mehr news agency. "If one country adopts
this decision it does not mean it has an international basis."
Oil rose on the sanctions announcements on Monday but fell back on
Wednesday due to weak economic data, with Brent at $107.92 a barrel, but
analysts have spoken of prices spiking to $150 if tensions with Iran
Iran has said it would close the Gulf to shipping if the United States
of Israel were to attack, something both countries say is still an
option if nothing else stops Tehran's progress towards getting nuclear
Tehran denies it is seeking the bomb.
"We do not need the atomic bomb. However I should make something clear," Ahmadinejad said in his televised speech.
"When we say we don't have it and we don't want it, it's because we
don't have it or need it. But if the nation of Iran wants to make the
atomic bomb one day, it is not scared of you."
China joined Russia on Wednesday in condemning the new sanctions. Both
countries are veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council
and would have prevented a new UN sanctions round beyond the four
already passed since 2006.
"We believe pressure and sanctions will not fundamentally solve the
Iranian issue, but will complicate the issue. Intensifying confrontation
is not conducive to the region's peace and stability," Chinese Foreign
Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters in Beijing.
France and the Netherlands both back sanctions on Iran's central bank in
principle. Both have yet to follow Britain's lead but the Netherlands
said it would push for the toughest measures when EU ministers meet to
pass new sanctions next week.
"The [European Union] council of ministers should take on December 1 the
decision [on] these sanctions which should hit the Iranian government
in the heart," the Dutch Foreign Ministry said in a statement.