Ahmadinejad accuses world powers of meddling in region as UN inspectors arrive to check military aspects of nuclear program.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday that western powers had implanted the Israeli regime into the Middle East as part of a scheme to gain control of the region and its resources.
“Why did they install the Zionist regime (Israel)? To gain control over oil, as well as the popular and revolutionary uprisings in the Middle East,” Iranian news agency Press TV quoted Ahmadinejad as saying during a speech at a youth conference in Tehran.
“It is clear that this was a historical scheme,” he added.
Ahmadinejad’s comments came as UN nuclear inspectors arrived in Iran on a visit aimed at shedding light on suspected military aspects of Tehran’s atomic work.
Iran said on Sunday it was very optimistic over the visit, but warned it would curb cooperation if the experts became a “tool” for outside powers.
An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team began a three-day visit on Sunday to try to advance efforts to resolve a row about nuclear work which Iran says is for making electricity but the West suspects is aimed at seeking a nuclear weapon.
Tensions with the West rose this month when Washington and the European Union imposed the toughest sanctions yet in a drive to force Tehran to provide more information on its nuclear program. The measures take direct aim at the ability of OPEC’s second biggest oil exporter to sell its crude.
Also Sunday, the Mehr news agency quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying during a trip to Ethiopia: “We are very optimistic about the outcome of the IAEA delegation’s visit to Iran … Their questions will be answered during this visit. We have nothing to hide and Iran has no clandestine (nuclear) activities.”
Iran’s parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, warned the IAEA team on Sunday to carry out a “logical, professional and technical” job or suffer the consequences.
“This visit is a test for the IAEA. The route for further cooperation will be open if the team carries out its duties professionally,” he said.
“Otherwise, if the IAEA turns into a tool (for major powers to pressure Iran), then Iran will have no choice but to consider a new framework in its ties with the agency.”
‘EU oil embargo could cause crude prices to skyrocket to $150 a barrel’
The country’s deputy oil minister was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency on Sunday that oil prices could rise as high as $150 a barrel because of the European Union ban on imports of Iranian crude.
“Although a precise prediction cannot be made on oil prices, it seems we will witness a $120 to $150 oil price per barrel in future,” said Iran’s Deputy Oil Ministry Ahmad Qalebani.
Benchmark Brent crude prices rose to around $111.50 a barrel on Friday on expectations Iran’s parliament will vote to halt exports to the European Union as early as next week in retaliation for EU plans to stop all Iranian crude imports by July.
Escalating tensions between Iran and Western allies over Tehran’s nuclear program, including Iranian threats to close the vital Straits of Hormuz, have helped push up Brent crude prices by about $8 a barrel since mid December.
But analysts say the world is likely to have more oil this summer thanks to additional output from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Libya that will more than make up for any lost from Iran after the EU’s ban is imposed on July 1 – and this is likely to be reflected in oil prices.
Iran’s parliament is due to debate a bill this week that would cut off oil supplies to the EU in a matter of days, in response to a decision last Monday by the 27 EU member states to stop importing crude from Iran as of July.