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Iran's Khamenei backs call to block Gulf oil exports if own sales stopped

Khamenei says any negotiations with the US would be an 'obvious mistake' if pursued
Iranian officials have in the past threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route (Reuters)

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has backed President Hassan Rouhani's suggestion that Iran may block Gulf oil exports if its exports are stopped and said any negotiations with the United States would be an "obvious mistake".

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 other 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," Khamenei's official website said on Saturday.

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.

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," Khamenei said.

It would be an "obvious mistake" to negotiate with the US as Washington was unreliable, Khamenei said, according to his website.

The endorsement by Khamenei, who has the last word on all major issues of state, is likely to discourage any open opposition to Rouhani's apparent threat.

European deal

Khamenei also voiced support for continued talks with Iran's European partners in the nuclear agreement who 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]," Khamenei said.

Earlier this month, France said European powers would be unlikely to put together an economic package for Iran that would salvage its nuclear deal before November.

New US sanctions could lead to Iran's oil exports falling by two-thirds by the end of the year, putting oil markets under immense strain. 

Washington initially planned to shut Iran out of global oil markets after Trump abandoned the deal that limited Iran's nuclear ambitions, demanding all other countries 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.