Iran formally snubs EU after oil, gas bans

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s oil ministry spokesman says all crude oil and gas exports have been banned to the 27-nation European Union, which has already imposed its own boycott on Iranian energy imports as part of sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear program.

It is unclear what practical effect the Iranian decision would have. But Sunday’s announcement by spokesman Ali Reza Nikzad Rahbar could be a symbolic act designed to reflect anger at Western unity over economic pressures on Iran.

The semiofficial Mehr news agency quotes Rahbar as saying the Iranian ban will remain as long as “hostile decisions” are made by the EU.

Before the EU bans last year, the bloc represented about 18 percent of Iran’s oil sales.

The U.S. and allies fear Iran could seek a nuclear weapon, a charge Tehran denies.

Also Sunday, Dubai’s government-run oil company says it has started importing supplies from Qatar and is seeking other sources in apparent moves to replace Iranian crude lost because of international sanctions.

Sunday’s statement from the Emirates National Oil Co. said it could seek to expand imports from the Middle East and Asia to help meet rising demand in the city-state, which has little of its own oil unlike neighboring Abu Dhabi.

The statement did not mention Iran, but Dubai was a major buyer of Iranian condensate — light oil ready for refineries — and faced U.S. pressure to stop the flow.
Dubai was a major hub for Iranian trade, but commerce has been sharply reduced by Western sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear program.