U.N. Team to Check for Military Uses of Iran Nuclear Program
A team of United Nations inspectors arrived in Iran on Monday for its second visit in three weeks, saying its highest priority remained “the possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran insists that the program does not have and which the inspectors’ previous visit did nothing to resolve.
International tensions, pressures and counterpressures over the nuclear program have been rising steadily, as Iran claims significant technological advances in uranium enrichment and threatens retaliation against countries that pursue sanctions against it, including a boycott of its oil.
Shortly after the International Atomic Energy Agency team arrived for talks with Iranian officials, the Iranian government signaled that it might expand the ban on oil shipments to Britain and France, announced on Sunday, to cover other European powers that it deems “hostile” because of broader economic sanctions by the European Union that are scheduled to come into force on July 1. The ban was apparently announced to pre-empt those sanctions, which include a boycott on new purchases.
Iran’s deputy oil minister, Ahmad Qalebani, said that oil exports to Spain, the Netherlands, Greece, Germany, Italy and Portugal might also be banned, state media reported.
“Undoubtedly, if the hostile actions of certain European countries continue, oil exports to these countries will be stopped,” Mr. Qalebani, who is also the managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company, was quoted as saying by the Mehr News Agency.
The threat reflected speculation that Iran may be trying to sow division in the 27-nation European Union between the members that do not rely heavily on Iranian oil and those that do.
Over all, the European Union buys about 18 percent of the oil that Iran exports. But those exports are much more important to Italy and Spain, which each get about one-eighth of their oil supplies from Iran, or to Greece, which gets one-third, than they are to Britain and Germany, which get only 1 percent of their oil from Iran, or to France, which gets only 3 percent.