Cut oil sales to Israel's backers-Iranian commander
TEHRAN, Jan 4 (Reuters) - An Iranian military commander called on Islamic countries to cut oil exports to Israel's supporters in response to the Jewish state's offensive in Gaza, the official IRNA news agency reported on Sunday.
IRNA said commander Bagherzadeh described oil as "one of the powerful elements of pressure" on the Jewish state's Western backers in the "unequal war" faced by Palestinians in the coastal strip.
"Pointing at Westerners' dependence on the Islamic countries' oil and energy resources, he (Bagherzadeh) called for cutting the export of crude oil to the Zionist regime's supporters the world over," IRNA said, referring to Israel.
IRNA gave only the commander's last name but it may have been referring to Mirfeysal Bagherzadeh, a brigadier-general of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards. There was no immediate comment from other Iranian officials.
Iran, which often rails against the United States and Israel, is the world's fourth-largest oil producer and a leading member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Top exporter Saudi Arabia is a U.S. ally.
Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants battled in Gaza on Sunday after Israeli troops and tanks invaded the coastal enclave in the most serious fighting in the conflict in decades.
Israel's attacks on Gaza have sparked repeated protests in Iran, an Islamic state which does not recognise Israel.
In 1973, Arab countries directed an oil embargo at Israel's supporters in the Arab-Israeli war, causing the first oil shock. Primarily the United States but also Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal and South Africa were affected. The price of oil quadrupled to almost $12 a barrel and inflation infected the economies of other industrialised countries.
Crude is now trading at about $46 after plunging by some $100 since July on the global financial crisis and a weakening world economy.
IRNA, which did not provide direct supporting quotes, said Bagherzadeh was speaking about the measures Islamic countries could take in response to Israel's attacks on Gaza.
"Among the tactics the world of Islam can use to help the innocent Palestinian people, Bagherzadeh called oil one of the powerful elements of pressure on the Zionists' European and American supporters in the unequal war," IRNA said.
Bagherzadeh is the director of Iran's Foundation for the Preservation of Works and Publications of Sacred Defence Values, IRNA said.
Iran is embroiled in a row with the West over its nuclear programme and has in the past threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic transport route for global oil supplies, if it is attacked by the United States or Israel.
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