US sanctions on Iran are “deliberately targeting innocent civilians” and amount to economic terrorism, its foreign minister said.
Mohammad Javad Zarif made the comments on Wednesday at theUnited Nationsin New York City. Earlier he said Iran needed ballistic missiles to protect itself from US-backed foreign invaders – an arsenal theUnited Statesargues must be curtailed.
Tensions between Iran and the US sharply escalated after PresidentDonald Trumpunilaterally withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed punishing sanctions, sending its economy into freefall.
Trump called the nuclear deal one-sided, but for years it successfully prevented Iran from developing an atomic bomb.
The US is “deliberately targeting innocent civilians to achieve illegitimate political objectives” with the severe sanctions, Zarif told a UN forum.
The “unlawful, extraterritorial” sanctions “represent the greatest threat to the achievement of sustainable development goals of Iran and many of our neighbours”, he said.
The sanctions have exacerbated an economic crisis that has sent Iran’s currency plummeting, and has also blocked vital goods such as medicine from entering the country. Iranians face severe shortages and inflated prices for what is still on store shelves.
As economic hardship deepens, about 30 percent of patients now buy medicine over the counter without a prescription because people cannot afford to pay physician fees, Iraj Harirchi, the deputy minister of health, saidearlier this month.
No missile talks
Iran has no choice but to manufacture missiles for defence purposes, Zarif said on Wednesday.
He said in aninterview with NBC Newsearlier this week if the US wants to talk about Iran’s missiles it needs “first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region”.
Iran has long rejected negotiations over its ballistic missile programme, which remains under the control of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard that answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The foreign minister’s remarks suggested a possible opening for talks as tensions remain high. But the Iranian mission to the UN promptly called Zarif’s suggestion purely “hypothetical”.
Iranian missiles were “absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period”, it said.
In Tehran, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted late on Tuesday that Zarif’s comments meant to challenge Washington, and “threw the ball into the US court while challenging America’s arms sales” to its Middle Eastern allies.
Zarif also backpedalled on the missiles issue, saying Iran has no choice but to manufacture the missiles for its own defence.
He cited the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, in which the US backed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with weapons and logistics.
For 8 YEARS, Saddam showered our cities with missiles & bombs provided by East & West.
Meanwhile, NO ONE sold Iran any means of defense.
We had no choice but building our own. Now they complain.
Instead of skirting the issue, US must end arms sales to Saddam's reincarnations. pic.twitter.com/rGGDk57WaB
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) July 17, 2019
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other regional rivals of Iran regularly receive multibillion-dollar arms shipments from the US.