Iran prepared for 'worst' on sanctions, Salehi says

AFP , Saturday 17 Dec 2011

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi says Tehran is prepared for the ‘worst case ‎scenario’ after the US Congress approved tough sanctions against the country’s oil and ‎banking sectors

Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi addresses the high level segment of the 16th session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, February 28,2011. (Photo:Reuters)

Iran has prepared for "the worst case scenario" to circumvent new toughened Western sanctions targeting its central bank and oil exports, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in an interview published Saturday.

"We are not really worried," Salehi told the official IRNA news agency. "Appropriate responses have been prepared for the worst case scenario, and we have devised a roadmap," to circumvent new sanctions.

The remarks came after the US Congress approved a tough new proposal to impose an embargo against Iran's oil exports and to cut off its central bank from the world financial system, effectively seeking its collapse.

The European Union is considering similar measures.

Salehi did not elaborate how the "roadmap" would deal with the fresh Western economic sanctions, which are in response to Tehran's refusal to curb its controversial nuclear programme.

But he said Iran has managed to "circumvent" Western and UN sanctions since the 1979 Islamic revolution, while acknowledging that "sanctions have their effect."

Iran is already subject to four sets of UN sanctions — designed to force it to give up uranium enrichment — along with severe additional US and EU sanctions.

The West alleges Tehran is seeking to acquire a weapons capability under the guise of its nuclear research programme. Iran denies any such ambition and says its work is only for civil energy and medical purposes.

In recent weeks, Iranian officials have insisted the country was ready to face new sanctions against the oil sector and central bank.

"Iran does not fear a European embargo on its oil," said Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi in Vienna this week.

Iran is the second-largest oil producer in the OPEC cartel.

Qasemi also predicted that such a move would destabilise the market and be detrimental to the West.

For his part, Economy Minister Shamseddin Hosseini said Tehran was "fully prepared" to deal with sanctions targeting its central bank.

However, officials have also conceded, in veiled terms, that sanctions in place since summer 2010 have had an impact on Iran's economy, including its supply of foreign currency and ability to invest in key oil and gas sectors.

Qasemi acknowledged last month that there were either no "investments, or those which were available came with difficulties, because of aggressive actions" of Western countries targeting Iran's energy sector.

A number of projects have been delayed or suspended after being declared non-priorities.

Earlier in the week, central bank chief Mahmoud Bahmani suggested Iran must be managed "as if under siege" — referring to an episode early within the development of Islam when the Prophet Mohammad and his followers were subject to an economic blockade by their opponents for three years.

Bahmani did not elaborate on the measures he thinks Iran should take to reduce the impact of a possible embargo against the central bank.

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