TEHRAN, (Reuters) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed international sanctions against Iran as a “childish idea” on Friday as he officially launched a natural gas project in the Gulf, Iranian media reported.
The comments came a day after U.S. President Barack Obama said he was extending economic sanctions against Tehran as it continued to pose an “extraordinary threat” to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States.
Obama announced the routine extension of punitive measures imposed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1995 in a public notice on Thursday.
Ahmadinejad said the idea of creating obstacles for Iran’s development with sanctions was “a childish idea and a big mistake,” the official IRNA news agency reported. “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 Friday’s commissioning of Phases 9 and 10 of the South Pars 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. “This grand achievement happened under conditions in which some in the world with immorality and misbehaviour did not fulfil their promises,” Ahmadinejad said. “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.
Since taking office in January, 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 it 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 U.S. and U.N. sanctions. But analysts say Iran is facing growing economic problems after oil prices plunged about $100 a barrel from a July peak of $147 in July as the global economic downturn hit fuel demand.
Tehran has reacted cautiously to Obama’s outreach, saying it wants to see real change in U.S. policy after Washington under Bush spearheaded a drive to isolate the Islamic Republic.
South Pars, in the Gulf, is Iran’s biggest single gas deposit. The country sits on the world’s second-largest gas reserves after Russia but has been slow to develop exports.
Many Western energy firms have become 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 in 2002 won a deal to develop phases 9 and 10, out of South Pars’ 24 phases. Iranian media said the two phases would have a daily output of 50 million cubic metres.