Tehran faced deeper isolation yesterday after a major Western energy company withdrew from a giant Iranian gas field project and international threats to attack the country’s nuclear facilities grew.
Total, the French energy group, said that it was freezing its role in a $10 billion project to develop the South Pars fields in the Gulf, the world’s largest gas reserves. The decision was a big step in a US campaign to put pressure on Iran to stop enriching uranium.
Iran’s decision to carry out missile tests — with a second round yesterday — also prompted Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister, to suggest that his country was ready to launch a pre-emptive strike if necessary. “Israel is the strongest country in the region and has proved in the past that it does not hesitate to act when its vital security interests are at stake,” Mr Barak said. Tehran had said this week that Tel Aviv would be “set on fire” if Israel were to attack.
Iran’s warlike language led to a warning yesterday from Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State. “We are sending a message to Iran that we will defend American interests and the interests of our allies,” she said.