Iran explicitly warned for the first time that it could use oil as a weapon if the U.N. Security Council imposes sanctions over an Iranian nuclear program that the U.S. and others suspect is trying to produce atomic bombs.
Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi raised the possibility of using Iran’s oil and natural gas supplies as a weapon in the international standoff and also noted Iran’s strategic location at a chokepoint for a vital Persian Gulf oil route.
“If (they) politicize our nuclear case, we will use any means. We are rich in energy resources. We have control over the biggest and the most sensitive energy route of the world,” Pourmohammadi was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
Iran is the No. 2 producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia. It also lies on one side of the narrow Strait of Hormuz, a key passage for most of the crude oil shipped from the Persian Gulf nations.
Pourmohammadi’s statements were the most specific yet in a series of threats issued by Iranian officials as the Security Council discusses how to cajole Iran into reimposing a freeze on uranium enrichment and fully cooperating with a U.N. probe of its suspect nuclear program.
Iran’s government denies it is trying to develop atomic weapons, saying its program is intended only to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that generate electricity.
Tehran insists the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty gives it the right to enrich uranium for reactor fuel, even though the process also can produce the fissile material needed to make atomic bombs.
Russia, which has economic and political ties to Iran, has been trying to mediate a settlement and avoid U.N. sanctions. It is thought to fear Iran could spurn negotiations entirely at a time when the West fears the Islamic state is determined to obtain atomic weapons.
In Vienna, Austria, a Western diplomat told The Associated Press that the Kremlin is trying to arrange talks March 20 among the five permanent Security Council members — the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France — and Germany.
The meeting is envisioned for Vienna because Russia wants to take the focus off the council’s deliberations in New York, said the diplomat, who agreed to give details of the confidential discussions only on condition of anonymity.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov floated the idea of multilateral talks on Iran earlier in the week but did not suggest a date or venue. On Friday, John Bolton, America’s ambassador to the Security Council, also said continuing consultations made “a lot of sense.”
But the Western diplomat suggested Washington wants the main focus to remain on the Security Council, emphasizing that route was approved in January by Lavrov and the foreign ministers of the other permanent members.
The five permanent council members considered proposals Friday on how to get Iran to answer questions about its nuclear program, abandon uranium enrichment and stop construction on a reactor.
The five planned another meeting Monday morning to look at a revised draft of a resolution involving Iran, the Western diplomat said.
Another diplomat who had seen the draft told AP it calls on Iran to halt construction of its heavy-water reactor and stop all uranium enrichment, but does not contain any threat of punishment against the Iranians.
The lack of a threat is a clear effort to get Russia and China on board. If that does not happen, Bolton and other senior U.S. officials have suggested Washington might try to rally its allies to impose their own targeted sanctions.