Asserting that the latest Iranian announcements were an effort to distract attention from international sanctions’ pressure, the White House said it was keeping a close watch on Tehran and consulting with allies.

“With regard to those threats, we don’t know what Iran’s intentions are, but we are watching closely and consulting with our partners,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

Iran on Wednesday carried forward its controversial nuclear programme by loading domestically made fuel rods into its Tehran reactor and announced plans to cut off oil exports to six European countries.

“What’s clear is that Iran is under more pressure from sanctions than ever before, and their economy is clearly being affected by those sanctions. What we see is provocative acts, defiant acts, statements that are designed to distract attention from the demonstrated impact that the sanctions are having, the demonstrated impact that the isolation of Iran is having,” he told reporters.

The European Union’s ban on new contracts for Iranian oil imports came into effect on January 23rd, and the ban on imports under existing contracts will imply from July 1.

“We are very confident that the sanctions have put enormous pressure on the Iranian economy and on the Iranian regime.

“It is not unusual for Iran to try to distract attention from those uncomfortable facts and from its overall isolation by some burst of rhetoric or making some announcement,” Mr. Carney said.

The United States, Mr. Carney said, is implementing sanctions on Iran in a way that had the desired effect just to pressure and isolate Iran further, and did not have unintended consequences for any of its allies, or more broadly, for the international oil market.

Responding to questions with regard to Iran’s nuclear programme, he said these activities remain under IAEA safeguards. “The US is expecting to learn more from IAEA inspectors on the ground in Iran.”

“U.S. has never objected to Iran’s peaceful and civilian nuclear activities. In fact, back in 2009, the United States and others proposed to work with Iran to ensure a continued fuel supply for this specific reactor, which has been used to produce medical isotopes to treat cancer.

“After initially indicating acceptance of that offer, Iran reversed course. Our interest is in Iran abiding by its international obligations, renouncing its interest in nuclear weapons and returning to the international community,” Mr. Carney added.

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