July 21, 2019
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Iran says sanctions shows US lies, Bolton insists Trump ready to talk

Tehran/Jerusalem, Jun 25 (efe-epa).- Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday hit out at fresh sanctions leveled against Tehran by the United States and said it proved Washington had been lying about its willingness to sit at the negotiating table just as Donald Trump's national security advisor insisted the US was still open to talks.

With its latest batch of sanctions, Trump's administration targeted the most powerful figure in the country, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and several senior officials, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who played a key role in the 2015 nuclear deal.

In a message on the Iranian presidential website, Rouhani said: "If they are honest, then why are they sanctioning the foreign minister while claiming they want to negotiate? It's obvious they are lying."

Rouhani, who is viewed as a moderate in Iranian politics, said the White House had been "afflicted by a mental retardation" and lambasted the sanctions against the supreme leader as "outrageous."

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Twitter that the decision from the US had closed off diplomatic channels.

"Trump’s desperate administration is destroying the established international mechanisms for maintaining world peace and security," he said.

The sanctions against Zarif are expected to come into effect later in the week, according to Steven Mnuchin, US Secretary of the Treasury.

Meanwhile, US National Security Advisor John Bolton, who is known for his hawkish policies on Iran, insisted that Trump was still open to negotiating with the Islamic Republic.

"All Iran needs to do is walk through that open door (to negotiations)," he said during an unprecedented tripartite security summit with his Israeli and Russian counterparts in Jerusalem, which mainly focuses on Iran and the conflict in Syria.

Bolton insisted that Iran was a "source of belligerence and aggression" in the Middle East, adding that Iran’s provocations in the region were an external manifestation of the central threat Iran poses, referring to the Islamic Republic’s alleged attempt to develop nuclear weapons.

Last week, Iran shot down a US military drone.

The US said the drone was downed in international waters and that the US was "cocked and loaded" to retaliate, but he called off strikes 10 minutes before launch due to the high risk of casualties.

He later said the Iranians also had a manned US aircraft "in their sights" but decided not to shoot it down.

"And we appreciate that they didn't do that. I think that was a very wise decision," he told reporters on Saturday.

The US has accused Iran of a series of alleged sabotage attacks against oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, most recently on June 13 when the Japanese-operated Kokuka Courageous and Norwegian-owned Front Altair were hit by explosives.

Iran has denied any involvement in the incidents and has instead accused the US of trying to destabilize the region.

The recent fallout between the US and Iran came after Trump came true on a campaign promise and scrapped his country's involvement in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that saw Tehran swap in much of its nuclear program for the alleviation of international sanctions.

Rouhani has also scaled back his commitment to the deal, urging European signatories to offset damage from US sanctions. EFE-EPA

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