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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iran Threatens to Cut Oil Exports

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran vowed Sunday to expand its atomic fuel work and warned that any United Nations sanctions aimed at halting its uranium enrichment would incur a painful riposte, possibly including a cut in oil exports.

Chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Iran would expand the number of atomic centrifuges it was running. Centrifuges enrich uranium by spinning it at supersonic speeds.

"We will expand nuclear technology at whatever stage it may be necessary and all of Iran's nuclear technology, including the [centrifuge] cascades, will be expanded," he told a news conference.

Such remarks flatly reject a UN Security Council resolution demanding Tehran halt its nuclear work by Aug. 31 or face the threat of sanctions. The West fears Iran will use enriched uranium to produce nuclear weapons.

Iranian officials, who argue they only need enriched uranium to run power stations, say the resolution is illegal and that Tehran has every right to produce fuel from the uranium ore that it mines in its central deserts.

Iran has told the International Atomic Energy Agency that it would start installing 3,000 centrifuges later this year, enough to produce material for a nuclear warhead in one year.

Larijani said the expansion of atomic work would be conducted under the supervision of the IAEA, but even that could be in question if Iran felt unfairly treated.

"We do not want to end the supervision of the agency, but you should not do anything to force Iran to do so," he said.

He warned the UN Security Council not to impose sanctions on the world's fourth-biggest exporter of crude oil.

"If they do, we will react in a way that would be painful for them. They should not think that they can hurt us and we would stand still without a reaction," he said.

"We do not want to use the oil weapon. It is they who would impose it upon us. Iran should be allowed to defend its rights in proportion to their stance," he added.

Although Iran has intermittently threatened to use its large oil exports as a weapon in international diplomacy, Tehran receives 80 percent of its export earnings from energy and would find such a cut hard to maintain.

"Do not force us to do something that will make people shiver in the cold. We do not want that," Larijani said, stressing Iran's reluctance to cut energy supplies.