01/05/2012, 00.00
IRAN - EU
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New EU sanctions on Iranian oil

The EU ban on imports of crude oil should start at the end of January. The U.S. sanctions on financial transactions bring down the value of the rial and are likely to block trade with foreign countries. The threats over the Strait of Hormuz and the proposed resumption of dialogue on nuclear energy. Tests of strength, but no sign of war.
Tehran (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The European Union member countries have rushed to block imports of Iranian oil, giving a new blow to Tehran’s already suffering economy. The agreement drawn up last night will be launched towards the end of January to allow countries that trade with Iran (Spain, Italy, Greece) to find alternative solutions.

The decision has raised the price of Brent oil by 2 dollars.

The new sanctions are another attempt by the international community to block Tehran's nuclear program, suspected of having military purposes. Last November, a UN report showed that Iran is close to building an atomic bomb, even if Tehran continues to claim that its nuclear programs are peaceful.

The oil embargo threatens to cripple the already fragile Iranian economy, which depends more than 60% on exports of crude. But S. M. Qamsari, head of National Iranian Oil Company said that Tehran will "easily" find new customers, especially in Asia, where China is already one of the largest partners. But Beijing, faced with the difficulties posed by the embargo, this month halved the demands of crude from Tehran.

The United States has agreed to new sanctions on a financial level, which would make transactions and payments of crude to Iranian banks impossible. U.S. President Barack Obama said that new sanctions will be implemented in six months, but even now they threaten to suffocate the Iranian economy.

In the last week, the rial has fallen 30% against the dollar, the largest devaluation in the last 20 years. Queues of Iranians have appeared before banks to try to change their accounts into dollars or other more stable currencies.

The U.S. sanctions are likely to dry up the foreign reserves of the central bank in Tehran, by making it impossible to devalue the rial and purchase products from abroad.

However, Iran remains defiant. A few days ago, it threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz should a crisis ensue. The Gulf Straits allow the passage of 40% of crude oil worldwide. The U.S. says it will continue to monitor the freedom of navigation in the Straits. In the same day Tehran held military exercises in the Gulf, trying to launch new medium-range and horizontal trajectory missiles, to use against warships.

At the same time, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has proposed a return to dialogue on the nuclear issue with the so-called 5 +1 (United States, Russia, France, Great Britain, China and Germany).

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