Iran's Rouhani to Trump: Lift sanctions first

Iranian president denounces 'economic terrorism' and doubts US 'maximum pressure' could bring about regime change.

    Iran considers the US sanctions against Zarif 'a flagrant infringement' of the principles of internal diplomatic law [Iran Presidency/AFP]
    Iran considers the US sanctions against Zarif 'a flagrant infringement' of the principles of internal diplomatic law [Iran Presidency/AFP]

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has reiterated his stand that if US President Donald Trump wants to start negotiations with Tehran, he must lift all sanctions against his country "before everything else."

    Rouhani made the comments late on Tuesday during a meeting with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in which he reiterated that the US's sanctions on his country are an act of "economic terrorism".

    During the meeting, Rouhani also said the Trump administration is "mistaken" to think that its "maximum pressure" campaign could bring about regime change in the country.

    Tensions have escalated since Trump last year withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and imposed new, harsher sanctions on Iran's oil and banking sectors.

    Last week, the US administration also announced financial sanctions on Zarif, after Trump last month imposed similar measures on Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. The sanctions are seen as part of a US pressure campaign on Iran.

    The New Yorker magazine has reported that before imposing sanctions against Zarif, Trump had offered to hold a meeting with him at the White House - a proposal that Tehran brushed aside as a mere photo-op lacking in substance.

    Iran's UN ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, sent a letter on Tuesday to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres protesting what he called the "illegal" sanctions on Zarif.

    Ravanchi said they are part of US policy "waging economic terrorism against the Iranian people and bringing pressure to bear on their representatives".

    Infringement of diplomatic law

    Iran considers the sanctions "a flagrant infringement of the fundamental principles of diplomatic law" that contravenes the privileges and immunities of UN diplomats and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, he said.

    The ambassador added that the sanctions indicate "the US regime despises diplomacy," and that its action "sets a dangerous precedent".

    "It is imperative for the international community to condemn the United States' unlawful behavior ... (and) stand firm in defending the established principles of international law," Ravanchi said.

    Meanwhile, Iran's defence ministry launched on Tuesday a new set of "smart and precision-guided bombs" developed by local weapons experts.

    Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami said the homegrown "smart bombs" could hit a target from a distance of 50km.

    Iran has been stepping up its defence capabilities amid heightened tensions in the region and threats from the US and its Middle Eastern allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies