Oil is weapon against Israel, U.S., says Iranian aide

TEHRAN (Reuters) - An aide to Iran’s top authority said Wednesday oil could be used as a weapon against Israel, the United States and their allies, echoing an earlier call by an Iranian commander to impose a crude oil embargo over Gaza.

Iran, OPEC’s No. 2 oil producer, has said in the past oil could be used as a weapon in rows with its enemies. A military commander on January 4 called on Islamic countries to cut oil exports to Israel’s supporters over the Gaza crisis.

But Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, said shortly afterwards that Middle East producers would ignore the commander’s call.

Yahya Rahim-Safavi, a former Revolutionary Guards commander and now senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Muslim states were paying “close attention” to actions by the United States, Israel and their allies.

Rahim-Safavi said these Muslim states had a “heavy mission and responsibility to defend Islam and the Islamic identity,” Iran’s Mehr News Agency quoted him as saying in a speech in which he also discussed Israel’s assault on Gaza.

He was speaking to a university gathering.

“Using Islamic states’ political and economic capabilities ... such as the energy tool, the oil and gas weapon, and forming a broad will to shut the Zionist regime’s embassies are among actions that can show off the power of the Islamic world’s unity to heads of global infidels and apostates,” he said.

Iranian officials often refer to Israel as the “Zionist regime.” Iran does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.

As well as condemning Israel’s attacks on Gaza that have killed more than 900 Palestinians, Iran is at loggerheads with Israel and the United States over Tehran’s plans which they say are aimed at building nuclear weapons.

Tehran insists its atomic aims are peaceful.

Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian, writing by Edmund Blair