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Iran says may extend oil cut to more European countries, after halt to Britain and France
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) ' Tehran is considering extending an oil embargo on France and Britain to other European countries, a semiofficial Iranian news agency reported Monday.
The head of Iran's state oil company Ahmad Qalehbani was quoted by Mehr as saying that the country would stop selling crude to nations who take action against Tehran.
"If the hostile acts of some other European countries continue, oil exports to these countries will be cut," he said.
Iran announced the cut-offs to France and Britain on Sunday, a pre-emptive retaliation for an EU embargo over Tehran's controversial nuclear program that is scheduled to go into effect in July.
Since the embargo was announced last month, Iranian officials have said that Tehran should enact its own sanctions immediately, before European countries lined up alternative suppliers.
The news sent oil prices to a nine-month high, reaching $105 per barrel in Asia on Monday.
Qalehbani predicted the prices could rise even higher. "The current situation of the market shows that there is a probability of oil price passing $150 per barrel," he said.
Iran says Spain, the Netherlands, Greece, Germany, Italy and Portugal are among its European customers.
Some of these countries may no longer be importing Iranian oil. France has played down the impact of Tehran's action, saying French oil companies already have stopped purchases of Iranian crude.
Qalehbani said demand for Iran's oil has increased in recent weeks, saying that Iran seeks "unconditional" contracts. He did not elaborate, but the Iranian media has previously mooted the idea of having buyers sign long-term contracts before they are allowed to purchase any oil at all.
Meanwhile, Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi predicted that bitterness between Iran and EU countries will not last long. "Relations between Iran and Europe cannot remain idle for a long period," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.
"European countries cannot continue without needing Iran, nor can Iran believe that it doesn't need Europe, since we are complementary parts of each other," Salehi said.
The 27-nation EU accounts for about 18 percent of Iran's oil exports.
The EU sanctions along with other punitive measures imposed by the U.S. are part of Western efforts to derail Iran's disputed nuclear program, which the West fears is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Iran denies the charges, and says its program is for peaceful purposes.