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Zarif says US sanction on him is failure of diplomacy

TEHRAN: Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has flayed the United States for imposing sanctions on him, calling the move a “failure” for diplomacy.

Speaking at a news conference in Tehran on Monday, Zarif deplored that on one hands its calls for talks, but on the other it was not interested in diplomacy to resolve the nuclear standoff.

“Imposing sanctions against a foreign minister means failure [for any efforts at negotiations],” said Zarif, adding that it also meant the side imposing the measures was “opposing talks”.

The US Treasury Department said it was imposing sanctions on Zarif for acting on behalf of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei – who is also subject to recently imposed US sanctions.

Tehran and Washington have been locked in a battle of nerves since May 2018 when President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 deal placing limits on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Since then, it has reimposed punishing sanctions on Iran, including measures aimed at slashing its oil exports to zero, as part of a campaign aimed at pressuring Tehran to negotiate a new nuclear deal.

Asked about reports that he had been invited to meet Trump in the White House, Zarif said he turned down the offer despite the threat of sanctions.

“I was told in New York I would be sanctioned in two weeks unless I accepted that offer, which fortunately I did not,” said the Iranian minister.

Zarif’s press conference came a day after Iran announced its forces had seized a foreign ship in the Gulf suspected of carrying smuggled fuel.

It was the Revolutionary Guard’s third seizure of a vessel in recent weeks and the latest show of strength by the paramilitary force amid the spike in tensions.