x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Iran dubs sanctions a 'childish lie'

The US President Barack Obama claims that Tehran poses an 'extraordinary threat' to the world.

The Iranian president has dismissed international sanctions against the country, saying it was a mistake and a "childish idea," according to Iranian media reports. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, reacted a day after Barack Obama, the US president, said he was extending the economic sanctions against Tehran that were imposed by former president, Bill Clinton, in 1995.

Mr Obama said Iran posed an "extraordinary threat" to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States. The details were made public on Thursday. During the official launch of a natural gas project in Iran, Mr Ahmadinejad said the idea of creating obstacles for the country's development with sanctions was "a childish idea and a big mistake". "Of course, our belief is that with the grace of God the Iranian nation can traverse the course of development," he said in a speech in the southern Gulf port of Assaluyeh.

He described yesterday's commissioning of Phases 9 and 10 of the South Pass field, Iran's single biggest natural gas deposit, as a "happy gift" for the Iranian nation, which is also the world's fourth-largest oil producer. Gas and oil products from South Pass fetch US$1.3 billion (Dh4.7bn) a year, meaning the field's operators will pay back the project's $4bn cost within 3 1/2 years, said the state-run news agency.

Iran has many more development phases planned for the South Pass deposit, which stretches over the border into Qatar where it's known as the North Field. "This grand achievement happened under conditions in which some in the world with immorality and misbehaviour did not fulfil their promises," said Mr Ahmadinejad. "They signed contracts to provide equipment and spare parts but ? some of the equipment and spare parts remained aboard ship and were taken back," he said in an apparent reference to western firms scaling down their investment plans in Iran.

Many western energy firms are wary of investing in Iran because of the sanctions. Asian firms have snapped up some projects and are looking at others. South Korea's LG Engineering Construction Corp and a pair of Iranian energy firms won contract deals in 2002 for work in South Pass. Since taking office in January, Mr Obama has talked of engaging Iran on its nuclear work and other issues, breaking with the policy of his predecessor, George W Bush.

He has also warned of more sanctions if Tehran does not stop enriching uranium, which has both military and civilian uses. Iran has repeatedly ruled out halting such activity, which it says is aimed at generating electricity, and shrugged off the impact of both US and UN sanctions. But analysts said Iran was facing growing economic problems after oil prices plunged about $100 a barrel from a July peak of $147 as the global economic downturn hit fuel demand.

Tehran has reacted cautiously to Mr Obama's outreach, saying it wants to see real change in US policy after Washington under Mr Bush spearheaded a drive to isolate the Islamic republic. sbhattacharya@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Reuters