A leading Iranian conservative attacked the country’s oil minister for proposing the sale of natural gas to Europe once sanctions end, in the latest sign of internal divisions over President Hassan Rouhani’s detente.
Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of conservative newspaper Kayhan and a figure with close ties to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wrote that Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh’s proposal was “naive” and a betrayal of Iran’s ally, Russia, in its dispute with the U.S. and European Union over Ukraine.
“A hard and heavy crisis is threatening Europe,” Shariatmadari wrote. “There is not only no room for the slightest compassion, but to increase the scope and severity of the crisis is desirable, just like attacking a professional assassin to prevent further bloodshed.”
The row comes as Iran and world powers are due to resume negotiations in Vienna to resolve the decade-long dispute over the Islamic republic’s nuclear program. Rouhani’s government has come under attack by hardliners over its efforts to achieve a nuclear deal.
Yesterday, Zanganeh said Iran would be willing to supply natural gas to Europe, where there’s concern that Russian President Vladimir Putin could restrict supplies of the fuel as a retaliation against EU sanctions.
Putin seized control of Crimea in March after pro-EU protesters ousted his Ukrainian ally, President Viktor Yanukovych, and tensions persist in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists are planning a vote on secession.
Iran’s hardliners have described the Ukrainian protesters as agents of the U.S., and have drawn comparisons with the anti-government demonstrations that spread in Iran in 2009.