Iran and Bahrain officials call for oil as weapon | world | Hindustan Times
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Iran and Bahrain officials call for oil as weapon

world Updated: Jan 05, 2009 16:36 IST
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An Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander is calling on Islamic countries to use oil as a weapon to end the fighting in Gaza, echoing a similar call days earlier by lawmakers in Bahrain.

The demands by Mirfaysal Bagherzadeh, a brigadier-general in the elite Iranian military unit, are unlikely to lead to an immediate embargo as they don't come from the oil rich Persian Gulf nations' top rulers or carry the support of other major producers like Saudi Arabia.

But they do highlight the depth of anger in the region over the Israeli offensive and the threat it poses to oil prices that recently fell to their lowest levels in years.

Benchmark light, sweet crude for February delivery rose $1.36 to $47.70 a barrel early Monday, after earlier jumping to as high as $48.68, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Traders say fighting in the Middle East is partly behind the rise.

Iran's official IRNA news agency on Sunday quoted Bagherzadeh as saying oil is "a strong factor of pressure" on supporters of Israel in the current "unequal war."

Bagherzadeh, who is in charge of war memorials and is not among the country's top oil officials, noted the West's dependance on energy resources from the Muslim world and called for a cut in crude exports to supporters of Israel, IRNA reported.

Iran's foreign ministry did not seem to distance itself from the comments when asked about them Monday.

"We do support any action for realizing two main steps: an immediate stop to the invasion and an end to the Gaza blockade," foreign ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi said.

The Iranian comments come days after members of Bahrain's lower house of parliament condemned Israeli attacks on Gaza and told the tiny kingdom's foreign minister that "all retaliation options" should remain open to Arab governments.

Lawmakers said Arab states should use economic weapons such as oil and the region's vast investment funds to put pressure on the West to help bring an end to the fighting.

Iran is second only to Saudi Arabia as OPEC's largest exporter. Bahrain, a relatively minor oil producer and not a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, is a key U.S. ally in the Gulf and plays host to the Navy's 5th Fleet.

Arab oil producers most famously used control over oil supplies as a weapon during the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel and Arab armies led by Egypt and Syria. Their decision to stop shipments to the U.S. and other allies of Israel preceded a steep spike in the price of oil.