TEHRAN Iran should halt all oil sales to the European Union immediately to disrupt EU plans for an embargo in six months' time, a senior Iranian politician said on Monday.
Ali Fallahian was responding to the European Union's decision earlier in the day to impose a ban on Iranian crude oil imports, to be fully enforced by July 1, part of a potentially crushing range of new sanctions the West hopes will force Tehran to curb its nuclear work.
Fallahian, a former intelligence minister and current member of the influential state Assembly of Experts, said Iran should stop exporting crude to the EU immediately, to cause a spike in prices and deny the Europeans time to find other supplies.
"The best way is to stop exporting oil ourselves before the end of this six months and before the implementation of the plan," Fallahian was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.
He also reiterated that Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow opening to the Gulf, in retaliation for sanctions that stop it exporting oil - a move the United States has said it would not tolerate.
"If they increase the pressure on our country, we can use the Strait of Hormuz as a tool to decrease the pressures and closing the strait is one of the options," he said.
First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said at the end of December that Iran would not allow "even one drop of oil" through the Strait of Hormuz - through which around a third of the world's sea-borne traded oil passes - if the West imposed sanctions on Iranian oil.
(Reporting by Mitra Amiri; Writing by Robin Pomeroy)