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Wean from Iranian crude, US tells India, Pakistan

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Feb 18 (IANS) Washington has said it was talking to India, Pakistan, Russia, and China about what they can do to "wean themselves" from Iranian crude as the US imposed new sanctions against Tehran.

"We are engaged in conversations with all of these governments with regard to the importance of implementing existing international sanctions, national sanctions," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters Friday when asked about several countries still doing business with Iran.

It was also talking to them about "doing what they can to increase sanctions, particularly to wean themselves from Iranian crude. So this is a process, it's still going on", she said.

But as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday, "we do assess that the pressure, economic and diplomatic, on Iran is beginning to pinch. And you see the fruit of that, and the fact that we - after many months, have Iran suggesting that we go back to the table", Nuland said.

Asked about Pakistan saying that it is going ahead with the construction of the gas pipeline between Iran and Pakistan, she said: "We have issues of concern and we've been very clear about those with the government of Pakistan."

"We think it's a bad idea; we've made that clear. But I'm not going to predict where this might go."

Asked about Israel blaming Iran's Quds Force for a string of attacks on Israeli diplomats in India, Georgia and Thailand, Nuland said: "I think, we are still where we are, that we wouldn't be surprised if the fingerprints and the trail lead back to Iran but we're not in a position to assess until the investigations of the host governments are complete."

In response to another question, she said the US had offered help in the investigations but could not say if any of the countries had taken up the offer.

Nuland's comments came as the US imposed three new separate sanctions actions against Iran's primary intelligence agency, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

Iran is under a few sets of UN Security Council sanctions. Western countries led by the US suspect that the Islamic Republic is seeking to build nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists it needs nuclear power solely for civilian purposes.


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