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No U.S. attack on Iran, oil price hits $70 in expectation

Washington did not launch air strikes against Iran early Friday despite recent media reports, but expectations of the attack have driven Brent price to $70 per barrel.
TEHRAN, April 6 (RIA Novosti) - Washington did not launch air strikes against Iran early Friday despite recent media reports, but expectations of the attack have driven Brent price to $70 per barrel.

Russian and foreign media have recently reported the U.S. could launch an operation, codenamed Bite, against Iran at 4:00 a.m. local time April 6. The operation was expected to deliver air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities over a 12-hour period to prevent the country from obtaining nuclear weapons.

"We are used to this situation. The Americans have been threatening us for many years, and they keep introducing sanctions against Iran," Majid, a salesman, told RIA Novosti. "But nothing has changed. We continue living and working as usual."

"I do not think the U.S. will take the risk - Iran is not Iraq or Afghanistan," he said, echoing the opinion of many fellow countrymen.

Iran's Defense Ministry declined to comment on possible U.S. strikes Thursday night, saying it was closed for Thursday and Friday, which are days off in the republic.

Israel's DEBKAfile Web site quoted intelligence sources in Moscow in late March as saying a U.S. strike against Iranian nuclear sites had been scheduled for April 6 and aimed at setting Tehran's nuclear program back several years.

The air strikes were expected to hit a uranium enrichment center in Natanz, about 1,000 miles from the Israeli border, a nuclear research center in Isfahan about 210 miles south of Tehran, a nearby heavy water plant in Arak, and military command centers.

Israel, which destroyed nuclear facilities in Iraq in 1981, took charge of the first of 25 U.S.-made F-15I multi-role fighters in 1998. The fighters have a range of about 2,700 miles without refueling and have a load capacity, including air-to-ground missiles, of up to 11 tons.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov said Thursday contacts between Moscow and Washington gave no reason to expect U.S. strikes at Iran in the next few days.

"I am more than certain that no strikes will be delivered tomorrow, and therefore there is no reason to panic," he said.

The U.S. has not excluded the military option in negotiations on Iran over its refusal to abandon uranium enrichment. The UN Security Council passed a new resolution on Iran March 24 toughening economic sanctions against the country and accepting the possibility of a military solution to the crisis.

A source in Russian security structures quoted Russian intelligence March 30 as saying the U.S. Armed Forces had nearly completed preparations for a possible military operation against Iran, and would be ready to strike in early April.

"Russian intelligence has information that the U.S. Armed Forces stationed in the Persian Gulf have nearly completed preparations for a missile strike against Iranian territory," the source said, adding, though, that the final decision would be up to the country's political leadership.

Russian Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said last week the Pentagon was planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran's military infrastructure in the near future.

"I have no doubt there will be an operation, or rather an aggressive action against Iran," Ivashov said.

A new U.S. carrier battle group has been dispatched to the Gulf. The USS John C. Stennis, with a crew of 3,200 and around 80 fixed-wing aircraft, including F/A-18 Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, eight support ships and four nuclear submarines are heading for the Gulf, where a similar group led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has been deployed, U.S. Fifth Fleet Lieutenant-Commander Charlie Brown said March 21.

Russia's leading business daily Kommersant said Friday Brent prices had soared to $70 per barrel, a record for the past seven months, in anticipation of the U.S. attack, despite the release of British sailors and marines detained by Iran on suspicion of trespassing.

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