At UN, Iran FM accuses US of ‘economic terrorism’
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At UN, Iran FM accuses US of ‘economic terrorism’

Zarif tells conference that sanctions amount to ‘targeting innocent civilians’ as Washington sharply restricts his movements during New York visit

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at a high level political forum on sustainable development on July 17, 2019, at UN Headquarters in New York. (Kena Betancur/AFP)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at a high level political forum on sustainable development on July 17, 2019, at UN Headquarters in New York. (Kena Betancur/AFP)

UNITED NATIONS — Iran’s foreign minister on Wednesday renewed accusations that the United States was waging “economic terrorism” on a visit to the United Nations during which Washington has sharply curtailed his movements.

After months of soaring tensions, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif came to New York for a UN session on sustainable development, where he denounced unilateral sanctions imposed by US President Donald Trump.

Iranians are “subjected to the most brutal form of ‘economic terrorism’ — deliberately targeting innocent civilians to achieve illegitimate political objectives,” Zarif said from the rostrum.

The “unlawful, extraterritorial” sanctions “represent the greatest threat to the achievement of sustainable development goals of Iran and many of our neighbors,” he said.

Trump last year withdrew from a multinational accord negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama under which Iran drastically scaled back its nuclear program. The Trump administration has argued that the agreement does not do enough to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons in the future, and does not limit its ballistic missile program or its interventions in conflicts around the region.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed executive order to increase sanctions on Iran, in the Oval Office of the White House, June 24, 2019, in Washington. Trump is accompanied by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, left, and Vice President Mike Pence. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Trump, a staunch ally of Iran’s rivals Saudi Arabia and Israel, has since imposed sweeping sanctions, including seeking to ban all Iranian oil exports in a bid to reduce the clerical regime’s regional clout.

The United States, as the host country of the United Nations, heavily restricted Zarif’s movements, confining him to the blocks around the United Nations, the Iranian mission and the Iranian envoy’s residence.

Zarif, speaking to reporters, said that the move was “certainly not a friendly action” and caused hardship for the families of mission workers.

“But for me it’s fine because I don’t have any work anywhere other than the three buildings,” Zarif said.

A US-educated academic who speaks fluent English often sprinkled with idioms and humor, Zarif is widely seen as a moderate face of the Iranian government and in the past worked with Washington on issues from Afghanistan to the nuclear deal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (2R) gestures during a high level political forum on sustainable development on July 17, 2019 at UN Headquarters in New York. (Kena Betancur/AFP)

But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that he believed that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was “calling all of the shots, 100 percent of them” on major strategic matters.

“Zarif comes around and talks about how he’s the good guy. He has been the foreign minister while the Islamic Republic of Iran has taken every action we’ve seen and he is equally responsible for those activities,” Pompeo told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

The United Nations voiced concern over the restrictions imposed on Zarif by the United States, which under an agreement is required to facilitate diplomats’ attendance for UN business.

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