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Home >> World
UPDATED: 09:28, December 27, 2006
Oil weapon a 'double-edged sword' in Iran crisis
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Iran will be hesitant to use its oil as a weapon in its confrontation with the West on the nuclear issue, nor will the UN initiate sanctions on Iran's oil exports, Chinese analysts said yesterday.

"It is a double-edged sword and neither can win through this way," said Yang Guang, director of the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"The oil card will be the last choice the two sides want to use, and neither side wants to let the situation deteriorate to such a level," Yang told China Daily.

Iran has repeated threats that it was ready to use its massive oil exports as a weapon to defend itself if it felt necessary in an international dispute over its atomic programme, the country's semi-official Fars news agency said yesterday. "If necessary, Iran will use any weapon to defend itself," said Iranian Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh.

Yang said the global oil price would definitely be influenced if Iran cuts off its oil supply, since the market has scarcely spare capacity of oil production to fill the breach.

Iran will not benefit from using the oil weapon either, since about 80 per cent of its export earnings come from oil, according to Yang.

Yang added that Iran's petroleum products mainly rely on imports, as the country doesn't have large capacity of petroleum refinery despite its huge crude oil reserves and exports.

"Iran will suffer from a price hike of petroleum products in the international market," he said.

Vaziri-Hamaneh has also repeatedly said the world's fourth biggest crude producer would prefer not to play the oil card, urging European countries to prevent "inappropriate" decisions if they wanted Iran's oil to flow.

Zhang Xiaodong, secretary-general of China Association for Middle Eastern Studies, said he was not optimistic on the prospects of a quick settlement of Iranian nuclear issue.

"It is not easy to change a nation's decision through sanctions," Zhang told China Daily. "As we can see, the international community hasn't achieved the result they want through sanctions," he said.

Instead of forcing Iran to compromise, the sanctions provoked Iran's tougher reactions, which is opposite to the sanctions' original purpose, Zhang said.

The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Saturday to impose sanctions on Iran's trade in sensitive nuclear materials and technology, in an attempt to stop uranium enrichment work that could produce material to be used in bombs.

However, Iran condemned the resolution passed as "a piece of torn paper" that would not scare Teheran and vowed to speed up uranium enrichment work.

China on Sunday called on all sides to resume talks on Iran's nuclear programme, saying that despite voting for UN sanctions on Iran, it didn't think sanctions could solve the problem.

"We hope the UN resolution is carried out earnestly, but we think sanctions are not the objective and cannot fundamentally resolve the issue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said explaining China's vote in a statement on Sunday.

"Sanctions are not the end but a means to urge Iran to return to negotiations," said Wang Guangya, China's UN ambassador.

Another Chinese analyst praised China's vote for the sanctions, saying that it played a positive role in safeguarding the dignity of the nuclear non-proliferation mechanism and helped prevent the worsening of the Iranian nuclear crisis.

"Sanctions are not a punishment, but an effort to prevent the situation in Iran getting worse, which is actually good for Iran," said Yin Gang, a senior researcher with the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies.

Yin said that China's objective is to persuade Iran to adopt a more co-operative attitude, and the sanctions, which could be withdrawn, actually can act as leeway for diplomatic efforts.

Source: China Daily

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