DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A Dubai-based newspaper said Sunday it stands by a story in which it quoted Iran's president as saying he might curtail oil sales if his nation is referred to the U.N. Security Council (search) for possible sanctions over its nuclear program.
However, the Khaleej Times (search) acknowledged that the confusion might have arisen because the reporter, a freelance journalist, told the president she was working for another paper.
After the story quoting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (search) appeared Saturday, the president's office issued a statement saying he "never had an interview, either oral or written" with the newspaper.
On Sunday, the Khaleej Times acknowledged that the confusion might have arisen because the reporter, a freelance journalist, told the president she was working for another paper.
The newspaper said the reporter on several occasions "presented herself (to Ahmadinejad) as a reporter with the American-based Arabic News (search), and not as a Khaleej Times reporter, though she has given this report exclusively to Khaleej Times."
The paper's editor, Prem Chandran, told The Associated Press: "We support what we published."
The paper said that in the interview, Ahmadinejad was asked about last month's resolution by the International Atomic Energy Agency (search), which warned Iran it would be referred to the Security Council unless it allayed fears about its nuclear program.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for energy purposes, while the United States suspects Iran is trying to build atomic bombs.
"If Iran's case is sent to the Security Council, we will respond by many ways, for example, by holding back on oil sales or limiting inspections of our nuclear facilities," Ahmadinejad said, according to the newspaper.
The president's office responded by saying "such a claim is nothing more than a mere fabrication," according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
Iran pumps about 4 million barrels daily, making it the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia.
Crude oil exports normally account for about 80 percent of Iran's hard currency income, and an oil official last month projected revenues from oil exports this year at $43 billion.
If Iran were to curtail its exports by a substantial amount, world oil prices would rise, although Tehran would lose revenue.
Iran has made other threats since the IAEA resolution — including resuming uranium enrichment and blocking U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities unless the U.N. agency stepped back.
Iran also has threatened to use trade to punish countries that voted for the resolution, and last week the parliament began debating a bill to force the government to scale back IAEA cooperation.
The newspaper quoted Ahmadinejad as saying Iran's nuclear program was peaceful because it had to be.
"Our religion prohibits us from having nuclear arms and our religious leader has prohibited it from the point of view of religious law. It's a closed road," the Khaleej Times quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
The president reportedly criticized the resolution and foreign countries for trying to impose their will on Iran and said he was determined to fight for Iran's rights to a nuclear fuel supply.
"I said I'll do every thing in order to uphold our national interest," the newspaper quoted Ahmadinejad as saying of his campaign promises before his June election.
"One of these things is that we will have access to the nuclear supply process."
He also reportedly added: "We don't want to be at war with the world."