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Iran leader backs blocking Gulf oil exports if own sales stopped
IRAN'S Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday backed President Hassan Rouhani's suggestion that Iran may block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are stopped and said negotiations with the United States would be an "obvious mistake".
Mr Rouhani's apparent threat earlier this month to disrupt oil shipments from neighbouring countries came in reaction to looming US sanctions and efforts by Washington to force all countries to stop buying Iranian oil.
"(Khamenei) said remarks by the president ... that 'if Iran's oil is not exported, no regional country's oil will be exported', were important remarks that reflect the policy and the approach of (Iran's) system," Mr Khamenei's official website said.
Iranian officials have in the past threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route, in retaliation for any hostile US action.
Mr Khamenei used a speech to foreign ministry officials on Saturday to reject any renewed talks with the US after President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from a 2015 international deal over Iran's nuclear programme.
"The word and even the signature of the Americans cannot be relied upon, so negotiations with America are of no avail," Mr Khamenei said.
It would be an "obvious mistake" to negotiate with the US as Washington was unreliable, Mr Khamenei added, according to his website.
The endorsement by Mr Khamenei, who has the last word on all major issues of state, is likely to discourage any open opposition to Mr Rouhani's apparent threat.
Mr Khamenei also voiced support for continued talks with Iran's European partners in the nuclear deal which are preparing a package of economic measures to offset the US pullout from the accord.
"Negotiations with the Europeans should not be stopped, but we should not be just waiting for the European package, but instead we should follow up on necessary activities inside the country (against US sanctions)," Mr Khamenei said.
France said earlier this month that it was unlikely European powers would be able to put together an economic package for Iran that would salvage its nuclear deal before November.
Iran's oil exports could fall by as much as two-thirds by the end of the year because of new US sanctions, putting oil markets under huge strain amid supply outages elsewhere in the world.
Washington initially planned to totally shut Iran out of global oil markets after Mr Trump abandoned the deal that limited Iran's nuclear ambitions, demanding that all other countries to stop buying its crude by November.
But it has since eased its stance, saying that it may grant sanction waivers to some allies that are particularly reliant on Iranian supplies. REUTERS