As Iran prepares to meet again with the U.S. and other countries to negotiate its nuclear program, the country's economic minister insisted in an interview Sunday with CNN's Fareed Zakaria that the crippling sanctions imposed on Iran were not having as much of an impact as believed.
Minister Shamseddin Hosseini argued that his country has a much broader economy than just oil.
"Last year, the total non-oil exports increased by 30 percent and according to the latest reports that the International Monetary Fund has published, Iran's GDP – Iran's per capita income has also increased," Hosseini said in the interview on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS."
Zakaria pressed Hosseini on the argument, asking how it could be that the country is not affected when 80% of its foreign revenues come from foreign sales of oil.
Watch the exchange in the video above (or check out the transcript below):
ZAKARIA: You're telling me that these restrictions on oil, particularly if the European Union goes through with them, the Indians say they're buying less from you, the Japanese say they are buying less form you, these are not going to affect you, 80 percent of your external revenues come from oil.
HOSSEINI: We must pay close to attention when we speak of oil revenues and sanctions against oil sales. Who are the winners and the losers of such sanctions?
Indeed, it is difficult, but not just for Iran. And we can all rest assured that there will be a considerable increase in international oil market prices. Now, is this the best approach?
ZAKARIA: Just to be clear because this is very important, you think that if the European Union goes through with the oil embargo, which is slated to go into effect in July, oil prices will go up very substantially?
HOSSEINI: Certain, certainly. Even the IMF says that as a result of these sanctions, oil prices will perhaps reach and hover around $160 per barrel. And the decrease in financial and economic output in Europe will truly be felt.
ZAKARIA: How long can you endure these kind of sanctions because they are affecting your banks, they're affecting, now, the Senate is passing ones relating to the oil – the tanker business.
How long can you continue to withstand these sanctions?
HOSSEINI: We have been the subject, the target of sanctions for the last 33 years. We never went looking for these sanctions, but during the last few years, of course, the volume of these sanctions have increased tremendously.
And we believe that those who impose the sanctions have exerted the maximum level of pressure they have been capable of, but the reality that is showing itself today is that the capacities and the economic specialties and strengths of Iran are such that can cause a backlash – an economic backlash for the imposers of these sanctions and their countries.
This really shows that the economy – economic strength of Iran is in such a way that can withstand these sanctions and will not be the only economy to suffer.
ZAKARIA: So if – but if these sanctions do cost you a lot, cost the average Iranian a lot, why not allow the IAEA inspectors in, say to them you can go to every facility including the ones that we have previously not allowed you to.
We have nothing to hide. You can see all our nuclear programs and certify that it's peaceful and once you get that certification, these sanctions will get lifted.
HOSSEINI: We have said time and time again that we will not give up this unalienable right. We are a member – full signatory and abiding member of the IAEA.
There are conversations and dialogues taking place currently, but there cannot be a hegemony and a double-standard in the treatment of member countries such as Iran.
If these principles can be understood and applied with mutual respect, I think we will be in a much better place.
ZAKARIA: Final question, what will the price of oil be in August of this year?
HOSSEINI: I believe that we must, at least, in order to have sustainable growth for the producers maintain prices at $100 per barrel. But keep in mind the following, can the industrial powers get out of the current situation they're in with these prices?
Therefore, the answer being obvious, the prices will go considerably higher than $100 per barrel. If we see reforms – tangible reforms in this behavior, we will be in a much better place. If we don't, we will witness an increase in international oil markets.