US vows ‘maximum pressure’ on Iran but says it’s not seeking regime change
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US vows ‘maximum pressure’ on Iran but says it’s not seeking regime change

Trump’s national security adviser calls for ‘massive changes’ in Islamic Republic’s behavior; Tehran’s oil minister says Washington won’t be able to halt crude exports

US National Security Adviser John Bolton (L) gives a press briefing in New York on September 24, 2018, on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly. (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)
US National Security Adviser John Bolton (L) gives a press briefing in New York on September 24, 2018, on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly. (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

The White House promised Monday to keep exerting “maximum pressure” on Iran and said new sanctions were in the pipeline while insisting that the US was not seeking the overthrow of Tehran’s clerical regime.

“As I have said repeatedly, regime change in Iran is not the administration’s policy,” National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters as he previewed US President Donald Trump’s week at the United Nations General Assembly.

“We’ve imposed very stringent sanctions on Iran, more are coming, and what we expect from Iran is massive changes in their behavior.”

“And until that happens we will continue to exert what the president has called maximum pressure,” he said.

As a private citizen, Bolton had advocated supporting Iran’s armed opposition, a position reiterated recently by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who serves as Trump’s personal lawyer.

Trump, who has warm relations with Iranian rivals Saudi Arabia and Israel, has pulled the United States out of an international agreement to constrict Iran’s nuclear program and instead has restored sanctions.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accused US allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of supporting Arab separatists who killed 24 people at a military parade last week in southwestern Iran.

Meanwhile Iran’s oil minister has said the US will not succeed in its plans to halt Iranian crude exports even as he acknowledged that South Korea has stopped buying oil from Tehran, Iranian media reported on Monday.

The website of Iran’s oil ministry, Shana.ir, quoted the minister, Bijan Zanganeh, as saying the “US dream of getting Iran’s oil exports to zero won’t come true.”

Iran’s Minister of Petroleum Bijan Namdar Zangeneh speaks to journalists at a hotel in Vienna, Austria, June 19, 2018. (Ronald Zak/AP)

Zanganeh said such a plan isn’t possible long-term, though Washington seems determined to cut Iran’s crude exports, “even if for just a month.”

However, he did say that Seoul hasn’t bought any Iranian crude “for three continuous months.”

The US has been encouraging its allies to cut their oil imports from Iran.

It’s unclear, however, how much other countries will cut back on Iranian oil imports. Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, which also signed the nuclear deal, opposed the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from it. European countries are trying to salvage the landmark accord.

Zangeneh also welcomed the outcome of a meeting Sunday between OPEC members and the cartel’s allies, which ended without any decision to further increase oil output despite Trump’s call for lower prices.

Zangeneh says “no country gave a positive answer to Trump” and that this can be considered a “heavy defeat” for the US president.

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