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Iranian Leaders Say Economy Strong Despite Sanctions

Iran's president says sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program will not hurt the country, but there are signs Iran is starting to feel the pain of the sanctions.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the tough measures imposed by the United Nations and the United States over Iran's nuclear program will "strike at the heart" of the Iranian government's nuclear ability. But Iranian leaders are dismissing the impact of the sanctions.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking at the opening of a steel plant in Azerbaijan Province, insists Iran's economy will not suffer.

He says that the sanctions will not have any effect on Iran and the people will prove them to be a failure.

Oil Minister Massoud Mir-Kazemi said sanctions were "nothing new" and would not affect Iran's energy sector.

He says "independent" countries like Iran continue to face, what he called, continuing injustice. He stressed Iran has become adept at exploiting its oil and gas resources in the years since the Islamic Revolution and there is no problem that cannot be solved with Iran's own technical know-how.

The oil minister also claims Iran has discovered several important new gas fields.

The U.S. sanctions, signed into law last week, bar Iranian companies from trading in a number of refined petroleum products, namely gasoline and jet fuel, a potentially crippling move for the financially troubled country.

Iran is one of the world's largest crude-oil producers, but has an inadequate refining capacity that forces it to import useful petroleum products.

Iran's official Student News Agency is reporting Iranian aviation official Mehdi Aliyari says Britain, Germany and the United Arab Emirates have refused to provide jet fuel for Iranian airliners. But airport officials in those countries say fuel is available to Iranian airplanes and none has been refused.

Mehrdad Khonsari of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London says the economic sanctions are like a noose, slowly tightening around the neck of Iran's economy, but he does not envision an immediate crisis.

"Obviously, the selling of jet fuel will pose problems for Iran Air and Maha Airlines, which operate out of Iran, but these are not difficulties that cannot be overcome," said Mehrdad Khonsari. "As for the sale of gasoline to Iran, there are plans in place from both Venezuela and China to combat that ..."

Analyst Alex Vatanka insists Iranian officials are "no longer putting on a brave face, but falling completely into denial," over the impact of sanctions. He says everyone knows about Iran's huge oil and gas potential, but Tehran still needs billions of dollars of foreign investment and technology to develop that potential."