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‘No Obstacles Can Stop Iran’s Nuclear Work’: Khamenei

Iran’s Supreme Leader has once again rejected accusations of pursuing a nuclear weapon, and insisted the country’s policy would not change despite a ramp-up in sanctions.

Iran Nuclear site
Photo: Satellite image by GeoEye

“With God’s help, and without paying attention to propaganda, Iran’s nuclear course should continue firmly and seriously…pressures, sanctions and assassinations will bear no fruit. No obstacles can stop Iran’s nuclear work,” Ayatollah Khamenei said on state television.

The absence of tangible progress during the two-day visit by the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog this week has further clouded hopes of a diplomatic resolution to the long-running standoff. The disagreement appeared to center on access to certain nuclear sites, despite Tehran maintaining its program was entirely for peaceful purposes.

In a statement, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said it was “disappointing” that Iran did not accept the request to visit Parchin, a site located southeast of the capital Tehran.

“We engaged in a constructive spirit, but no agreement was reached,” Amano added.

Hopes for talks had received a boost over the weekend following a formal request from Iran. But with the latest setback, it was not immediately clear when, or whether at all, there would be any future visits.

An Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman told reporters on Tuesday that they would “wait and see” what issues the IAEA brought up and how it would impact negotiations.

The United States and Israel have refused to exclude the option of a military strike on Iran, provided diplomacy and sanctions failed to bring about a change in Iran’s nuclear policy.

In comments likely to fan concerns of a strike this year, a Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman said on Wednesday that the use of a US airbase in Kyrgyzstan for a possible strike by the US on Iran “cannot be excluded”. Located to the west of China, Kyrgyzstan is some 1200 miles from Iran.

Oil Prices Rise

Widened sanctions from the international community, notably the United States and the European Union, have pushed some of Iran’s crude clients to reduce their imports and find alternative suppliers. A complete EU ban on Iranian oil imports is set to take effect on July 1st.

 

Several Iranian media outlets celebrated therecent build-up in oil prices as proof of Iran’s leverage and ability to respond, particularly after the announcement of a ban on oil sales to Britain and France.

Officials are currently considering widening the measures to other European states, with the Deputy Oil Minister Ahmed Qalebani making it clear on Wednesday that there would be no oil sales to any companies that gave oil to Britain and France either.

Mixed signals also came from South Korea, where new data from the Korea National Oil Corporation showed that crude imports from Iran fell by almost 25 percent in January compared with a year earlier, but were still up 53 percent from December.

In its monthly report, the IEA estimated Iran’s production, OPEC’s second largest, to have been 3.45 million barrels per day (bpd) in January. The figure reflects a 100,000 bpd from a month earlier.

Oil trader Vitol warned on Tuesday that geopolitical risk, “especially in the Middle East”, created “material upside” for oil prices this year.

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