Barak disparages Iranian ‘nuclear advance’

Iran denies rush to cut oil shipments to EU

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16 פב' 2012
Barak disparages Iranian ‘nuclear advance’

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio on Thursday that the high profile nuclear work announced the day before by Iran was exaggerated and meant to intimidate Israel and the West against taking military action to destroy the Islamic Republic’s renegade nuclear program. "They are describing a situation that is better and more advanced than the one they are in, in order to create a feeling among all the players that the point of no return is already behind them, which is not true," Barak said. "They are definitely making progress, but in order to deter anyone dealing with them, or perhaps even to make this seem superfluous, they are priding themselves on achievements that do not yet exist." The statements echoed comments by the US on Wednesday that the televised Iranian nuclear demonstrations were "not terribly new and not terribly impressive."

The professed “advances” displayed on Iranian TV included new centrifuges designed to enrich uranium at an accelerated rate and the loading of Iran’s first domestically produced batch of fuel into a research reactor. “Their underlying message is that this is all for civilian purposes,” one Israeli official commented. “But everyone knows that the Iranian program is not about isotopes. There is an international consensus now that this program is not benign.”

“The era of bullying nations has passed. The arrogant powers cannot monopolize nuclear technology. They tried to prevent us by issuing sanctions and resolutions but failed,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared during the live broadcast. “Our nuclear path will continue.”

The statements and the demonstrations were denounced by several governments around the world.

Elsewhere, Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam TV station reported that the Iranian government has handed a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressing readiness to “hold new talks over its nuclear program in a constructive way.”

"Iran welcomes the readiness of the P5+1 group (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- and Germany) to return to negotiations in order to take fundamental steps toward further cooperation," chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili wrote in the letter, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Ashton’s office confirmed receipt of the letter, saying she would consult with the rest of the P5+1 nuclear powers before responding.

In related news, a spokesman for Iran’s Oil Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday denying a report that it had decided to immediately cut off supplies of oil to six EU states. Brent crude-oil prices jumped up $1 a barrel to $118.35 in reaction to the announcement, despite Iran’s denial and a statement by the targeted countries (France, Portugal, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands and Spain) that they have already moved to buy oil from other suppliers.

“It is not really surprising that we are seeing this chaos as it reflects the fractured political process in Iran,” Nic Brown, head of commodities research at the Natixis corporate and investment bank in London told Reuters. “You have the Oil Ministry responsible for revenues, while other parts of the government are trying to make political statements. At the end of the day, they need revenues and they will remain dependent on the Europeans if they cannot place their oil elsewhere. Iran remains absolutely dependent on income from its oil exports.”


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