Iran dismissed the latest U.S. sanctions against its financial institutions as “psychological warfare” and said the Islamic Republic was open to “meaningful talks” on its nuclear program.
Sanctions against Iran will fail to influence the nation’s determination to pursue its “rights” and will have “no impact,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters yesterday in Tehran. His comments were aired live by state-run Press TV.
In Washington, visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said his nation appreciates the “very crucial decision” by the U.S. to increase sanctions on Iran.
President Barack Obama Feb. 6 ordered a block on property and interests in property belonging to the Iranian government, its central bank and all Iranian financial institutions.
In addition, the European Union, collectively the No. 2 importer of Iranian oil in the first half of 2011, last month approved a ban on Iranian oil purchases by the 27-nation bloc set to take effect on July 1. Oil for March delivery increased $1.50 a barrel, or 1.55 percent, yesterday to settle at $98.41 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The U.S. and its allies are using economic and financial sanctions to curb Iran’s nuclear program, which they say seeks to achieve nuclear-weapons capability. Iran says its nuclear program is for generating electricity and for medical uses.
Liberman’s visit to Capitol Hill, which followed a meeting yesterday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, came as U.S. officials such as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have expressed concern that Israel may unilaterally attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Iran’s ‘Nuclear Ambitions’
“We are awaiting that the Iranians, they will give up their nuclear ambitions,” Liberman said yesterday before meeting with U.S. Senators John McCain of Arizona, Republican of Arizona, Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Joe Lieberman, independent of Connecticut.
Before discussions with Liberman, McCain said that sanctions on Iran aren’t doing enough to force Iranians to “renounce their path to the acquisition of nuclear weapons.”
Israel “obviously” has a “very serious threat,” McCain said afterwards. “They want to work very closely with the United States of America.”
McCain said that Liberman didn’t talk about what Israel’s plans are regarding a possible attack on Iran, nor did he discuss whether Israel would give the U.S. an advance notice of such an attack.
While Liberman didn’t say it directly, “it’s so clear that all options are on the table,” Representative Howard Berman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview after panel members also met with the foreign minister yesterday.
“He was very measured,” Representative Eliot Engel, Democrat of New York, said of the discussions with Liberman. “I made the point that Democrats and Republicans are united to stand with Israel in whatever decision it makes.”
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida Republican who leads the House Foreign Affairs panel, said in an interview that Liberman pointed out that Iran poses a problem for the U.S. and its allies, so everyone will realize that it isn’t just about saving Israel.
In Tehran, Mehmanparast said Iran has answered “ambiguities” around its nuclear activities that were raised by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
IAEA inspectors visited Iran for talks last month and are expected to return to Tehran for further meetings. The IAEA yesterday corrected the dates of the planned visit to Feb. 20-21, according to an e-mailed statement. The Vienna-based agency said previously the meetings in Tehran would take place Feb. 21-22.
Iran has certain “measures on the agenda,” Mehmanparast said in reply to a question about the possibility that his country will preemptively cut exports to Europe in response to the EU decision.
“It’s natural to say that when countries act as enemies, they will face repercussions,” he said.
Iran, the second-largest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia, pumped about 3.545 million barrels of crude a day last month, a Bloomberg survey showed, and exported an average 2.58 million barrels a day in 2010, according to OPEC statistics.