Iran could ban EU oil exports next week: lawmaker
TEHRAN (Reuters) - A law to be debated in Iran's parliament on Sunday could halt exports of oil to the European Union as early as next week, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted a lawmaker as saying on Friday.
"On Sunday, parliament will have to approve a 'double emergency' bill calling for a halt in the export of Iranian oil to Europe starting next week," Hossein Ibrahimi, vice-chairman of parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, was quoted as saying.
Parliament is pushing for the export ban to deny the EU a 6-month phase-in of the embargo on Iranian oil that the bloc agreed on Monday as part of a raft of tough new Western sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to curb its nuclear program.
The EU accounted for 18 percent of Iranian crude oil sales in the first half of 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), making it Iran's second biggest customer after China.
"If the deputies arrive at the conclusion that the Iranian oil exports to Europe must be halted, the parliament will not delay a moment (in passing the bill)," Fars quoted Moayed Hosseini-Sadr, a member of parliament's energy committee, as saying.
"If Iran's oil exports to Europe, which is about 18 percent (of Iran's oil exports) is halted the Europeans will surely be taken by surprise, and will understand the power of Iran and will realize that the Islamic establishment will not succumb to the Europeans' policies," he said.
Reflecting how seriously Tehran was taking the idea, Iran's OPEC governor Mohammad Ali Khatibi told the ILNA news agency the country might choose to raise the issue at the next OPEC meeting.
Iran's conservative-dominated parliament has previously shown it is ready to force the government to take action against what it sees as hostility from the West.
In November it voted to expel the British ambassador after London announced new sanctions ahead of other EU countries.
The day after that vote, radical Iranians stormed the British embassy, causing London to withdraw all staff and close the mission.