Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends a news conference during the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development summit in Rio de Janeiro June 21, 2012.
Credit: Reuters/Nacho Doce
July 1, 2012
(Reuters) - Iran announced missile tests on Sunday and threatened to wipe Israel "off the face of the earth" if the Jewish state attacked it, brandishing some of its starkest threats on the day Europe began enforcing an oil embargo and harsh new sanctions.
The European sanctions - including a ban on imports of Iranian oil by EU states and measures that make it difficult for other countries to trade with Iran - were enacted earlier this year but mainly came into effect on July 1.
They are designed to break Iran's economy and force it to curb nuclear work that Western countries say is aimed at producing an atomic weapon. Reporting by Reuters has shown in recent months that the sanctions have already had a significant effect on Iran's economy.
Israel says it could attack Iran if diplomacy fails to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear aims. The United States also says military force is on the table as a last resort, but U.S. officials have repeatedly encouraged the Israelis to be patient while new sanctions take effect.
Washington said the EU's oil ban might force Tehran to give ground at the next round of nuclear talks, scheduled for this week in Istanbul.
Announcing three days of missile tests in the coming week, Revolutionary Guards General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said the exercises should be seen as a message "that the Islamic Republic of Iran is resolute in standing up to ... bullying, and will respond to any possible evil decisively and strongly."