Saturday, January 28, 2012

Iran hits back at EU with own oil embargo threat

Fighting sanctions with sanctions in a test of strength with the West over its nuclear ambitions, Iran warned on Friday it may halt oil exports to Europe next week in a move calculated to hurt ailing European economies.

The Tehran government grappling with its own economic crisis under Western trade and banking embargoes, will host a rare visit on Sunday by U.N. nuclear inspectors for talks that the ruling clergy may hope can relieve diplomatic pressure as they struggle to bolster public support.

Since the U.N. watchdog lent independent weight in November to the suspicions of Western powers that Iran is using a nuclear energy program to give itself the ability to build atomic bombs, U.S. and EU sanctions and Iranian threats of reprisal against Gulf shipping lanes have disrupted world oil markets and pushed up prices.

Amid forecasts Iran might be able to build a bomb next year, and with President Barack Obama facing re-election campaign questions on how he can make good on promises - to Americans and to Israel - not to tolerate a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic, a decade of dispute risks accelerating towards the brink of war. Read More