Ahmadinejad denies report of curbing oil sales

DUBAI (AP) — Iran’s president has denied telling a newspaper that his government might curtail oil sales if Iran is referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear programme.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “never had an interview, either oral or written, with the Khaleej Times,” the president’s office said in a statement late Saturday.

In a statement issued Sunday, the Dubai-based newspaper said it stood by the contents of the interview and by the reporter, who is a freelance journalist.

But the newspaper acknowledged confusion might have arisen because the reporter on several occasions “presented herself [to Ahmadinejad] as a reporter with the American-based Arabic News, and not as a Khaleej Times reporter, though she has given this report exclusively to Khaleej Times.” The paper’s editor, Prem Chandran, told the Associated Press that the daily stood behind the interview and the reporter.

“We support what we published, and the reporter has freelanced for us for more than a year. This interview was given to us exclusively,” he said.

The paper had reported Ahmadinejad as speaking about last month’s resolution by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which warned Iran it would be referred to the UN Security Council unless it allayed fears about its nuclear programme.

“If Iran’s case is sent to the Security Council, we will respond by many ways, for example, by holding back on oil sales or limiting inspections of our nuclear facilities,” Ahmadinejad said, according to the Khaleej Times.

The president’s office denied this, saying: “Such a claim is nothing more than a mere fabrication,” according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Iran pumps about four million barrels daily, making it the second-largest producer in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia.

If Iran were to curtail its exports by a substantial amount, it would raise the price of oil on the world market. But it would also reduce Iran’s revenue.

Iran has made other threats since the IAEA resolution.

Officials have threatened to resume uranium enrichment and to block UN inspections of its nuclear facilities unless the UN nuclear agency stepped back.

Iran has also threatened to use trade to punish countries that voted for the resolution, and last week the parliament began debating a bill to force the government to scale back IAEA cooperation.

The newspaper reported Ahmadinejad as saying that Iran’s nuclear programme was peaceful and that it had to be so.

“Our religion prohibits us from having nuclear arms and our religious leader has prohibited it from the point of view of religious law. It’s a closed road,” he told the Khaleej Times.

The president criticised the resolution and foreign countries, however, for trying to impose their will on Iran and said he was determined to fight for Iran’s rights to a nuclear fuel supply.

Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy purposes. The United States and some other countries suspect Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons.

“I said I’ll do every thing in order to uphold our national interest,” Ahmadinejad said of his campaign promises ahead of the June presidential election.

“One of these things is that we will have access to the nuclear supply process.” He added: “We don’t want to be at war with the world.”

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