'US sanctions on Zarif will deter efforts to end row through talks'
August 01 2019 11:54 PM
Mohammad Javad Zarif
Mohammad Javad Zarif

Agencies/Brussels

*Iran FM sanctioned for implementing reckless agenda: US
*EU expresses 'regret', says will continue to work with Zarif

Iran accused the United States on Thursday of "childish behaviour" driven by fear after Washington imposed sanctions on its foreign minister, fanning tensions between two foes at loggerheads over Gulf shipping and Iran's nuclear programme.

Fears of a Middle East war with global repercussions have risen since the United States ditched world powers' 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year and revived sanctions on Tehran.

The Islamic Republic has retaliated by resuming uranium enrichment seen in the West as a potential conduit to developing atomic bombs. Iran denies having any such objective.

After several attacks in May and June on oil tankers - blamed by Washington on Tehran, which denied responsibility - US President Donald Trump has been trying to forge a military coalition to secure Gulf waters, though European allies have been loath to join for fear of provoking open conflict.

On Wednesday the Trump administration slapped sanctions on Iran's Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif - a likely further blow to any chances for troubleshooting dialogue.

"They (Americans) are resorting to childish behaviour... They were claiming every day 'We want to talk, with no preconditions'...and then they sanction (our) foreign minister," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on state television.

Zarif, a pivotal player in the nuclear deal who was educated and lived for years in the United States, dismissed the US action and said it would not affect him as he had no property or other interests in America.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Zarif was being sanctioned because he "implements the reckless agenda of Iran's Supreme Leader...(We are) sending a clear message to the Iranian regime that its recent behaviour is completely unacceptable".

However, the European Union said it regretted the United States' decision.

"From our side we will continue to work with Mr Zarif as Iran's most senior diplomat and in view of the importance of maintaining diplomatic channels," EU foreign policy spokesman Carlos Ruiz De Gordejuela said.

President Rouhani said Iran was ready for the worst in an uphill struggle to salvage its nuclear deal with world powers abandoned by the United States, but that he was sure Tehran would eventually prevail.

"We have a hard battle ahead, but we shall surely win," Rouhani said on live state television.

"We are not acting on the assumption we will get results through talks and accords," Rouhani said.

"Instead we are planning based on the assumption that we will not achieve results. Our budget for this year and next, our ministries are also acting on this basis...We are acting and going step-by-step with long-term prudence."

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Russia concerned at mounting conflict potential in Gulf

QNA, Moscow: Russia on Thursday expressed concern about mounting conflict potential in the Gulf region.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said it had the impression that the United States was looking for a pretext for conflict in the Arabian Gulf.

"The developments are moving towards a dangerous brink fraught with the risks of a large-scale military clash," said Zakharova.

"The impression is that Washington is looking for a pretext to whip up tensions and continue its aggressive rhetoric against Iran as well as to bring about a shift to a more active phase of the standoff," she added.

Last updated: August 02 2019 12:25 AM


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