Russia warns EU Iran oil embargo will be costly

Fri Apr 27, 2012 5:24pm EDT
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By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia pressed its case against new sanctions over Iran's nuclear program on Friday, saying an European Union ban on purchasing Iranian oil would end up hurting the bloc's member countries.

"The European Union is rejecting purchases of Iranian oil, even though very many EU countries depend on this oil," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview on state-run Rossiya 24 television.

"One can say, of course, that the deficit will be covered, but (some) refineries are geared specifically to Iranian oil ... and readjusting them will demand substantial investments that the EU can hardly afford now," he said.

Russia has supported four rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions over Iran's nuclear program, which Western nations fear is aimed at developing nuclear weapons and Tehran says is purely peaceful.

But Lavrov reiterated Moscow's opposition to further U.N. sanctions and actions by other nations and groups, including the EU oil ban which comes into force in July.

"The unilateral sanctions to which our Western partners resort, bypassing the Security Council, only strengthen ... those in Iran who are sure the West is not interested in resolving issues linked with non-proliferation of nuclear technologies, but is interested in regime change," Lavrov said.

Speaking ahead of a second round of talks next month between Iran and six global powers - Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France and Germany - he suggested the focus should be on coaxing Tehran into cooperation with the prospect of relief from sanctions.

Russia has been calling for a "step-by-step" resolution to the dispute.   Continued...

An oil tanker loads gas in Assaluyeh seaport at the Persian Gulf, 1,400 km (870 miles) south of Tehran, Iran May 27, 2006. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl