Iran foreign minister says he was sanctioned by US after refusing to meet Trump
Mohammad Javad Zarif revealed today he was warned that accepting the invitation to the White House would have meant he avoided the sanctions against him. He said he was told this when he met US senators and congressman during a visit to the United Nations last month. But he did not name anybody or reveal what was exactly said as he is a diplomat.
Mr Zarif told a press conference in Tehran: “On my trip to New York, I was told that I would be sanctioned within two weeks unless I accepted the offer, which I fortunately did not accept.”Iranian government spokesperson Ali Rabiei said on Sunday that an invitation was made by Senator Rand Paul.Mr Trump had authorised him to act as an intermediary between the two countries, according to Iran’s state media Press TV. Iran also said today it would further reduce compliance with its 2015 nuclear deal next month if they were still failing to protect it from crippling US sanctions, which were reimposed after Washington withdrew from the deal.
The other members of the deal have so far been unable to prevent Mr Trump trying to force Iran to accept stricter limits to its nuclear activity and regional behaviour by limiting its vital oil trade.Iran has threatened to block all energy exports out of the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of global oil traffic passes, if it is unable to sell oil as promised by the 2015 deal in exchange for curbing its uranium enrichment programme.Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said: “With the continuation of the inaction of the Europeans in carrying out their commitments (to the nuclear deal) ... Iran will take a third step (in reducing commitments) in approximately one month.Iran had increased its stockpile of heavy water above 130 tonnes and its reserve of enriched uranium above 300 kilograms, Mr Kamalvandi told IRIB news agency.READ MORE: Iran to infuriate global superpowers by further ignoring nuclear deal
The deal - designed to forestall Iran making high-enriched uranium suitable for nuclear bombs in short order - permitted a maximum reserve of 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium.It also set a cap of 130 tonnes of heavy water, which in large quantities can yield plutonium, an alternative atom bomb fuel.Mr Kamalvandi said: “What is certain is that by putting aside or suspending our commitments we will increase the speed of our nuclear activities.”He did not say what Iran’s next step would be, but Tehran warned last month it could ramp up enrichment of uranium to 20 percent fissile purity.DON'T MISSIran on alert: US recruits UK in alliance against Tehran [WARNING]Iran news: Will Boris Johnson take harder stance on Iran? [INSIGHT]Tehran's war capability revealed amid tensions with West [VIDEO]
Fears of a Middle East war have risen ever since Mr Trump withdrew in May 2018 from the nuclear deal embraced by his predecessor Barack Obama.Oil tanker traffic through the Strait of Hormuz has become the focus for the increasingly tense US-Iranian standoff and the Trump administration has beefed up its military presence in the Gulf since May.Iran declared today that it ran security in the strait and would no longer tolerate “maritime offences” there, a dayafter the Islamic Republic said it had seized a second oil tanker near the strategic waterway that it accused of smuggling fuel.
On Sunday, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps diverted the Iraqi tanker to its shores and detained its seven crew, state media reported.Guards commander Ramezan Zirahi was quoted as saying it was carrying 700,000 litres of fuel.Mr Zarif said: ”Iran used to forgo some maritime offences in ... (the) Gulf but will never close (its) eyes anymore.“Iran is responsible for the security and safety of the Strait of Hormuz and the region.”
He also labelled as “piracy” the seizure by Britain of an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar in July.He also accused the UK of violating European Union sanctions on Iran ally Syria.Two weeks later, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a British tanker, Stena Impero, near the Strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations.Mr Zarif said: ”Britain has been complicit in the US economic terrorism against Iran.”