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Iran claims victory after U.S. exempts countries from oil sanctions

March 21, 2012 | 10:50 am

REPORTING FROM TEHRAN -- Iranian officials claimed a victory over the U.S. Wednesday, saying the superpower backed down with its decision to not penalize 11 countries that have bought Iranian oil.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced a day earlier that Japan and 10 European Union countries would be spared from economic sanctions to be imposed by the U.S. because they had cut back significantly on their imports of Iranian oil.

Iranian officials portrayed the exemptions as a win for Iran, despite the fact that the countries were explicitly exempted because they had begun weaning themselves off Iranian oil. Fars News headlined its story on the sanctions, “U.S.A. backs down against Iran.”

“Such a move is an overt retreat from their earlier stances,” the head of the parliament foreign policy commission, Aladin Borujerdi, told the Iranian Students News Agency. He said it was “due to decisive stances taken by the Islamic Republic” defending its nuclear program.

Borujerdi also argued that the U.S. had exempted the countries to stop oil prices from rising further, a bid to spare “the tumbling economies of the West.”

“Exempting 11 countries show that sanctions were the results of impulsive decisions,” Kazam Jalali, the Iranian deputy head of national security, told ISNA.

A dozen other nations, including world powers such as India and China, could yet face the most aggressive sanctions ever imposed by the U.S. in its effort to force Iran to limit its nuclear program.

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-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

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