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Iran slams West's nuclear double standards


Western powers are mounting pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear program, while supplying Israel with nuclear capable submarines, a double standard noted by Iran's foreign ministry on Tuesday.

The broadside by the ministry's spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast appeared to be a response to a US call the previous day for Iran to take "urgent practical steps" to build confidence ahead of nuclear talks with six major powers in Baghdad on May 23.

"Some of these countries have nuclear-capable submarines they have delivered to the Zionist regime," he said, alluding to Germany's sale of Dolphin-class submarines to Israel, which some analysts say can carry nuclear warheads.

"All of these countries need to feel committed to the contents of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT)."

In a rebuke to the world's nuclear powers who have failed to downsize their own arsenals, Mehmanparast spoke of their "contravention and clear violation" of the rules.

"Some countries say they are concerned that Iran's activities might be diverted towards non-peaceful purposes in the future," he said. "When they are talking about future speculation, how can they not be concerned about scrapping nuclear weapons at the present time?"

US officials have previously suggested Iran should build confidence by accepting more intrusive UN inspections, curbing its uranium enrichment work and closing a nuclear site near Qom.

Yet no Western power has made a similar stringent demand of Israel, the Middle East's only nuclear power and primary ally of the United States.

Iranian officials have said the Baghdad meeting should lead to the lifting of sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies against Iran's energy and banking sectors.

The United States suspects Iran of seeking to develop a capacity to build nuclear weapons and has refused to rule out military action if negotiations fail. Iran denies this and maintains it has the right to enrich uranium and develop a peaceful nuclear program as a member of the NPT.

Last week, Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said Tehran would never suspend enrichment, which can have both civilian and military purposes, and saw no reason to close the Fordow underground site which it has used to expand higher-grade enrichment.

The IAEA and Iran will hold talks in Vienna on May 14-15 after two meetings earlier this year failed to make headway.

The UN nuclear watchdog wants Iran to address questions raised in an IAEA report in November on suspected Iranian research and development activities relevant to nuclear weapons.

Iran has dismissed the allegations as fabricated.

Iran accepting yuan for oil exports to China

Iran is accepting payments in yuan for some of the crude oil it supplies to China, the Iranian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday.

"Yes, that is correct," Mohammed Reza Fayyaz told Reuters when asked to comment on an earlier report in The Financial Times.

The newspaper cited unidentified industry executives in Beijing as saying most of the oil that goes from Iran to China is handled by the Unipec trading arm of Sinopec China's second-largest oil company, and through another trading company called Zhuhai Zhenrong.

Fayyaz also confirmed that Iran was spending the currency on goods and services imported from China.

The news comes a day after the US pressured India to cut its oil imports from Iran amid speculation that Delhi is also dealing with Tehran in rupees, and thus, avoiding Washington's tough sanctions aimed at curbing Iran's oil exports.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on a visit to India on Monday that there's an adequate supply in the market for India to find alternative sources of oil.

"If there weren't an adequate supply...we would understand, but we believe that there is adequate supply," she said.

A void US key ally and the world's top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, is keen to fill.

Riyadh sought to convince Japan to cut its imports of Iranian oil by reassuring Tokyo that Saudi Arabia is prepared to up its output to meet contingencies, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

Naimi, on a visit to Tokyo, made the remark in a meeting with Trade Minister Yukio Edano, a ministry official told reporters in a briefing.

Naimi told reporters earlier that Saudi Arabia will satisfy its customers' needs.

"We will always satisfy our customers requests, whatever the request is," he said.

Asia's energy-hungry economic giants have been reluctant to abide by US and European sanctions targeting Iran's oil industry, despite intense lobbying from the West and Saudi Arabia.

China and India are working on methods to bypass the sanctions, while US traditional allies South Korea and Japan have each applied for waivers while offering to reduce their oil imports from Iran.

(Al-Akhbar, Reuters)

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