Ahmadinejad says EU the sanctions loser
Tehran - The European Union rather than Iran will lose out under new EU sanctions banning Iranian oil, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday as lawmakers said they might cut supplies to EU countries ahead of a July 1 deadline.
"It is the West that needs Iran and the Iranian nation will not lose from the sanctions," Ahmadinejad said in his first public comments on the issue since the EU's 27 member states agreed the ban on Monday.
"There was a time when 90% of our trade was with the Europeans. It has now dropped to 10%. We didn't call for this. Cut it [trade] and let's see who will incur the loss," he said in excerpts of a speech broadcast on state radio.
Tehran has said the EU's six-month phase-in for the ban indicates its difficulties in cutting Iranian oil supplied as it faces unprecedented economic uncertainties due to a debt crisis. The EU is Iran's second biggest oil customer after China.
Parliament will debate on Sunday a bill that would oblige the government to halt oil exports ahead of the July 1 deadline the EU set in order to soften the blow to the ailing economies of Greece, Italy and others to whom Iran is a major supplier.
"All European countries that made Iran the target of their sanctions will not be able to buy even one drop of oil from Iran and oil taps will be turned off to them so that they will not play with fire again," lawmaker Nasser Soudani told the semi-official Mehr news agency.
The EU move and new US measures aimed at making it harder for countries around the world to buy oil from Iran, OPEC's second biggest exporter, constitute the toughest sanctions yet aimed at pressuring Tehran to curb its nuclear programme.
They come as Ahmadinejad is struggling to control rising inflation and a currency crisis which itself was partly caused by the psychological impact of the new sanctions.
Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani told state television that in addition to higher bank interest rates announced on Wednesday, Tehran would enforce a single exchange rate from Saturday, an attempt to stamp out a black market where dollars have soared due to fears over the sanctions.