Iran halts oil exports to U.K., France

In this April 15, 2008 file photo, oil technician Majid Afshari works at the Azadegan oil field, near Ahvaz, Iran. AP Photo/Vahid Salemi

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran has halted oil shipments to Britain and France, the oil ministry said Sunday, in an apparent pre-emptive blow against European Union sanctions against Iran's crucial fuel exports.

A statement posted on the ministry's shana.ir website gave no other details, but it follows a flurry of contradictory signals by Iran about backlash against the EU for imposing a boycott on Iranian oil beginning in July.

The 27-nation EU accounts for about 18 percent of Iran's oil exports.

Last week, state media said Iran was planning to cut off oil exports to six EU nations, including France, but later reports said the nations were only told that Iran has no problem finding replacement customers for the European shipments.

The EU sanctions, imposed last month, were part of Western efforts to target Iran's critical oil sector in attempts to rein in Tehran's nuclear program.

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