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Iran cuts oil exports to Britain, France

Updated: 2012-02-20 06:21
( Xinhua)

TEHRAN - Iran announced on Sunday that it has stopped oil exports to British and French companies, while reiterating its readiness for the nuclear talks with the world powers.

"The Oil Ministry has stopped oil sales to British and French companies," Iranian oil ministry spokesman Alireza Nikzad-Rahbar said Sunday.

The announcement came months before the European Union (EU) embargo on Iran's oil takes effect. The Iranian oil minister has earlier announced about the probability of halting oil exports to some EU countries.

The Islamic republic has no problem in selling its crude oil to its customers, Nikzad-Rahbar said, "We have our own oil customers and the replacements for these (British and French) companies have already been considered and we will sell the crude oil to new customers instead of the British and French companies."

The spokesman's remarks, which did not specify the time of the sales cut to the British and French companies, were posted on the website of Energy and Oil Information Network affiliated to the Iranian Oil Ministry.

Also on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi said that the next round of nuclear talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (G5+1) will be held in Istanbul, Turkey.

Salehi made the remarks at a press conference held jointly with his Nicaraguan counterpart Samuel Santos in Tehran and aired live by the local satellite Press TV.

He did not refer to the time of the talks, but said that Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili has announced Iran's readiness for the resumption of talks "as soon as possible" in a recent letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The Islamic republic is "ready for the worst scenario" in the face of Western threats, Salehi said, adding that "the West should choose interaction with Iran rather than confrontation" over the country's controversial nuclear program.

"Western countries, as a whole, will amend their policies towards Iran," he said.

Salehi reiterated Tehran's determination to move on with its "peaceful" nuclear program, saying that "Since we believe that we are right, we do not have the slightest doubt in pursuing our nuclear program. Therefore, we plan to move ahead with vigor and confidence and we do not take much heed of (the West's) propaganda warfare," according to the report.

On February 11, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran had always been ready for the talks over its nuclear issue, but it would not yield to Western pressures to quit its rights.

"We have always been ready for (nuclear) talks within the framework of justice and respect," said the Iranian president, adding that, however, "I clearly announce that if you (Westerners) talk in the language of coercion and disrespect (with Iranians), the Iranian nation will never surrender to you" over its nuclear rights.

"The only way you need to observe is to respect the rights of the Iranian nation and to come to the negotiation table," said Ahmadinejad.

Nuclear talks between Iran and the G5+1 in Istanbul in January 2011 failed to reach any agreement, with Tehran rejecting any notion of suspending enrichment in exchange for trade and technology benefits as called for by several UN Security Council resolutions passed since 2006.

The ground forces of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) started a new round of drills in central Iran on Sunday, the official IRNA news agency reported.

IRGC ground forces commander Mohammad Pakpour said Sunday that IRGC infantry units and battalions of Basiji voluntary forces would take part in the two-day military exercises, according to the report.

Pakpour said Saturday that the drills, code-named Valfajr, which would be conducted in the desert area and Yazd province of central Iran, were aimed to enhance the combat preparedness of the IRGC forces and to show the might of IRGC in confronting the possible threats of "non-regional enemies."

The maneuvers were also meant to increase the country's deterrence capability, practice modern defensive tactics and test advanced indigenous military equipment, he was quoted as saying by the IRNA on Sunday.

Earlier this month, the IRGC's ground forces conducted two rounds of separate military exercises, one of them near Iran's southern waters and the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Pakpour said the IRGC was completely prepared to strike back at any act of aggression against the Islamic republic.