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Rouhani Criticizes U.S. Move To Sanction Iran's Foreign Minister

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a meeting in Oman last week. The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Zarif amid escalating tensions with Tehran.
Atta Kenare
AFP/Getty Images
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a meeting in Oman last week. The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Zarif amid escalating tensions with Tehran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani lashed out at new U.S. sanctions imposed on the country's foreign minister, calling the Trump administration move "childish."

On Wednesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, blocking him from doing business with Americans and restricting his access to any property he might have in U.S. jurisdictions. The move is seen as part of the administration's ratcheting up of pressure on Iran amid increased tensions between the two countries.

"They have started doing childish things," Rouhani said in a speech in the western city of Tabriz, in Azerbaijan province, according to The Associated Press.

"Every day they claim: 'We want to negotiate with Iran, without any pre-conditions.' And then they put sanctions on the country's foreign minister," Rouhani said.

In announcing the sanctions on Zarif, Mnuchin said the foreign minister "spreads the regime's propaganda and disinformation."

"Javad Zarif implements the reckless agenda of Iran's Supreme Leader, and is the regime's primary spokesperson around the world," the treasury secretary said in a statement. "The United States is sending a clear message to the Iranian regime that its recent behavior is completely unacceptable."

Administration officials did not say whether the sanctions would prevent Zarif from visiting the United Nations in New York.

The sanctions were widely anticipated after the administration threatened them only to announce last month that it was holding off.

Zarif responded to Wednesday's announcement in a tweet, saying the sanctions would have "no effect on me or my family, as I have no property or interests outside of Iran. Thank you for considering me such a huge threat to your agenda."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a statement issued from Bangkok, where he is traveling, said the U.S. wants to find a diplomatic solution to curb Iran's "destructive behavior."

"Foreign Minister Zarif and the Foreign Ministry he runs take their direction from the Supreme Leader and his office," Pompeo said. "Foreign Minister Zarif is a key enabler of Ayatollah Khamenei's policies throughout the region and around the world. The designation of Javad Zarif today reflects this reality."

Despite the new sanctions on Zarif, national security adviser John Bolton announced that the U.S. would renew a 90-day waiver for Iran's civilian nuclear program that allows Russia, China and European countries to continue to assist it.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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