Iran says new US sanctions show Trump's offer to talk 'hollow'

Tehran says fresh US sanctions on its petrochemical industry show Washington's offer of talks is not genuine.

    A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Gulf [File: Raheb Homavandi/Reuters]
    A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Gulf [File: Raheb Homavandi/Reuters]

    Iran has condemned new sanctions imposed by the United States targeting its petrochemical industry, saying they prove US President Donald Trump is not serious about pursuing negotiations.

    Abbas Mousavi, a spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, said on Saturday the US move amounts to "economic terrorism" and a continuation of the US "enmity" against Tehran.

    Washington placed sanctions on Iran's largest petrochemical holding group on Friday for indirectly supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the White House branded a "terrorist organisation" in April.

    Amid escalating tensions between the two countries, Trump said earlier this month that he would be willing to talk to the Islamic republic.

    In a statement on Saturday, Mousavi said the fresh sanctions showed Trump's offer for talks was "hollow".

    "The American policy of maximum pressure is a defeated policy," he said, adding: "This a wrong path and the US government can be sure that it will not achieve any of the goals set for this policy."

    Trump has ramped up sanctions on Tehran since he pulled the US out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, under which Tehran curbed its nuclear programme in return for an easing of most international sanctions.

    In May, Washington moved to cut Iran's oil production to zero by imposing sanctions on countries buying Iranian crude. 

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    The punitive measures have caused Iran's oil shipments to tumble to 750,000 barrels a day in April compared with 1.5 million in October, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

    'Unconventional means'

    Meanwhile, in an interview published on Saturday, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said Tehran was keeping up oil sales through "unconventional" means in order to circumvent the US sanctions.

    "We have unofficial or unconventional sales, all of which are secret, because if they are made known America would immediately stop them," he said, quoted by the oil ministry's SHANA news agency.

    Zanganeh declined to give details on Iran's oil exports, saying he would not disclose figures until sanctions were lifted. He added: "The most severe organised sanctions in history are currently being imposed on Iran."

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    In a separate interview published by the Iranian parliament news site ICANA, Zanganeh said Iran had no plans to leave the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) despite pressure from the US and its allies in the region - Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

    Riyadh and Abu Dhabi said they would increase oil production to make up for Iranian crude cut from the market due to the US sanctions.

    "Two regional countries are showing enmity towards us [in the OPEC]," said Zanganeh. "We are not their enemy but they are showing enmity towards us ... and [they] use oil as a weapon against us in the global market and world."

    The US has said it aims to intensify economic and military pressure on Iran because of its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes as well as its support for proxy groups in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. 

    On Thursday, Trump said Iran was "failing as a nation" under the pressure of his sanctions. 

    Washington also sent more military forces to the Middle East, including an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and Patriot missiles, in a show of force against unspecified threats from Iran.

    So far, Iran has not been found to have breached conditions of the 2015 nuclear deal but in May threatened to resume high-level enrichment of uranium if world powers did not keep their promises under the 2015 agreement.

    SOURCE: News agencies