TEHRAN (AP) — Iran has halted oil shipments to Britain and France, the Oil Ministry said Sunday, in an apparent pre-emptive blow against the European Union after the bloc imposed sanctions on Iran‘s crucial fuel exports.
The EU imposed tough sanctions against Iran last month, which included a freeze of the country’s central bank assets and an oil embargo set to begin in July. IranianOil Minister Rostam Qassemi warned earlier this month that Tehran could cut off oil exports to “hostile” European nations. The 27-nation EU accounts for about 18 percent of Iran‘s oil exports.
“Crude oil exports to British and French companies have been halted,” Oil Ministry spokesman Ali Reza Nikzad-Rahbar said on the ministry’s shana.ir website. “We have our own customers and have no problem to sell and export our crude oil to new customers.”
Britain’s Foreign Office declined comment, and there was no immediate response from French officials.
The semiofficial Mehr news agency said crude exports were halted Sunday to the two countries. It also said the National Iranian Oil Co. has sent letters to some European refineries with an ultimatum to either sign long-term contracts of two to five years or be cut off.
Mehr did not specify which countries were sent the ultimatum, but Spain, Italy and Greece are among Europe’s biggest buyers of Iranian oil.
Last week, state media said Iran was planning to cut off oil exports to six EU nations, including France, but later reports said the nations were told only that Iran has no problem finding replacement customers for the European shipments.
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