TEHRAN, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- Despite mounting political and economic pressure, Iranian officials have maintained a defiant tone on European and U.S. threats of more sanctions.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted by the semi-official Mehr news agency as saying Thursday that Iran does not need to sell its oil to European countries.
The European Union (EU) on Monday imposed further sanctions against Iran's oil exports as well as its central bank, a move aimed to ramp up pressure over Iran's disputed nuclear program.
Sanctions cannot stop Iran's progress, Ahmadinejad said when addressing a group of people in the southeastern city of Kerman, adding that "We do not need to sell oil to Europe."
Meanwhile, the IRNA news agency quoted the president as dismissing Western governments' sanctions on Iran's central bank as useless. He noted that Iran's total foreign trade was 200 billion U.S. dollars, of which only 24 billion dollars was with Europe.
Pressure on Iran also came from the United States, where President Barack Obama has signed into law a new set of sanctions targeting Iran's central bank and oil revenues.
Ali-Abar Velayati, top advisor to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Thursday that "no one can sell oil if Iran cannot," according to local satellite Press TV.
Velayati dismissed the latest EU sanctions on the country's oil exports as "futile," saying that Tehran will not allow a situation in which others can sell oil and Iran cannot, Press TV said.
In view of the Iran issue, the Cape Argus newspaper in Cape Town said Thursday that South Africa's oil refineries may have to carry out costly reconfigurations if the African country follows the United States and the EU by banning new contracts for crude oil and petroleum products from Iran.
Iran is South Africa's principal supplier of crude oil.
In Algeria, Minister of Energy and Mining Youcef Yousfi said Thursday that Algeria will not boost its oil exports if Iran cuts oil exports in response to the EU's sanctions.
"We have a program in place that will be maintained," the minister said on the sidelines of a parliamentary hearing. "We have not discussed at the OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) the option of increasing output."
In addition, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said Thursday that it would be "premature" to use military force against Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
"I just think that it's premature to be deciding that the economic and diplomatic approach is inadequate," he said during an interview with the National Journal.
On the same day, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the military alliance is not involved in the Iran issue. But he urged Iranian authorities to keep the strategic Strait of Hormuz open.
"NATO as an alliance, as an organization, is not involved in the Iran question. Individual allies are, but NATO as an organization is not," Rasmussen told reporters.