Thursday , September 20 2018

Firm Iran no to US talks

Iraq PM to visit Iran, Turkey as US sanctions bite

TEHRAN, Aug 11, (Agencies): Iran gave its most explicit rejection yet of talks with the United States on Saturday, and accused Washington of an “addiction to sanctions” over its latest spat with Turkey.

The US reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran on Tuesday following its May withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement, dealing a heavy blow to the already troubled economy.

US President Donald Trump has offered talks on a “more comprehensive deal” but Iran has baulked at negotiating under the pressure of sanctions and has instead leant on its increasingly close ties with fellow US sanctions targets Turkey and Russia.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was asked by the conservative Tasnim news agency whether there was any plan to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“No, there will be no meeting,” was the blunt response from Zarif.

He said there were also no plans for a meeting with US officials on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next month, which both Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Trump are due to attend.

“On Trump’s recent proposal (of talks), our official stance was announced by the president and by us. Americans are not honest and their addiction to sanctions does not allow any negotiation to take place,” Zarif told Tasnim.

It was Iran’s most explicit rejection of talks to date, after much speculation that economic pressure would force its leaders back to the table with Washington or at least to engage in backroom discussions in New York.

Earlier on Saturday, Zarif waded into the mounting row between Turkey and the United States.

“Trump’s jubilation in inflicting economic hardship on its NATO ally Turkey is shameful,” he wrote on Twitter.

“The US has to rehabilitate its addiction to sanctions (and) bullying or entire world will unite — beyond verbal condemnations — to force it to,” he warned.

“We’ve stood with neighbours before, and will again now.”

Trump said Friday he was doubling steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey as part of an ongoing row over the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson and other issues.

The tensions have fuelled a run on the Turkish lira, which dropped 16 percent to a record low on Friday, with Trump tweeting that the currency was sliding “rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar!”

Iran too has suffered a major decline in its currency this year — in part due to US abandonment of the nuclear deal — with the rial losing more than half its value against the dollar since April.

Ironically, the rial strengthened in the two days leading up to the reimposition of US sanctions on Tuesday, after the government announced new foreign exchange measures giving greater freedom to trade dollars at market rates.

But there has since been a fresh decline of almost 13 percent, with the rial at 106,200 per dollar on Saturday, according to currency tracking website Bonbast — approaching the record low of 119,000 that it reached on July 31.

Analysts say this is due to uncertainty in the market, with currency traders still unsure of the new rules and struggling to access dollars from the central bank.

Zarif met repeatedly with then US secretary of state John Kerry during the negotiation and implementation of the 2015 agreement — but those relatively warm ties were abruptly ended when the Trump administration came to power.

Rouhani said last week that Iran “always welcomed negotiations” but that Washington would first have to demonstrate it can be trusted.

“If you’re an enemy and you stab the other person with a knife and then you say you want negotiations, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife,” he said in an interview on state television.

Meanwhile, Iran test-fired a short-range anti-ship missile in the Strait of Hormuz during naval drills last week that Washington believes were aimed at sending a message as the United States reimposes sanctions on Tehran, a US official said on Friday.

The official, however, did not suggest that such a missile test was unusual during naval exercises or that it was carried out unsafely, noting it occurred in what could be described as Iranian territorial waters in the Strait.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed on Sunday it had held war games in the Gulf over the past several days, saying they were aimed at “confronting possible threats” by enemies.

US Army General Joseph Votel, head of the US military’s Central Command, said earlier this week the scope and scale of the exercises were similar to ones Iran had carried out in the past. But the timing of this particular set of exercises was designed to get Washington’s attention.

“It’s pretty clear to us that they were trying to use that exercise to send a message to us that as we approach this period of the sanctions here, that they had some capabilities,” Votel told reporters at the Pentagon.

Iran has been furious over Trump’s decision to pull out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Senior Iranian officials have warned the country would not easily yield to a renewed US campaign to strangle Iran’s vital oil exports.

Last month, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backed Rouhani’s suggestion that Iran may block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are stopped.

Votel said the US military was keenly aware of Iran’s military activities.

“We are aware of what’s going on, and we remain ready to protect ourselves as we pursue our objectives of freedom of navigation and the freedom of commerce in international waters,” Votel said.

In other news, German automotive supplier Duerr has halted its activities in Iran, which has been hit by the reintroduction of US sanctions this week that include threats to blacklist any companies trading with the Islamic republic.

“Business in Iran has grown over the past year. Now we have stopped our activities for the time being,” Duerr Chief Financial Officer Carlo Crosetto told Boersen-Zeitung in an interview published on Saturday.

“We’ve won two larger contracts in 2017. This is not overly important, but it’s not small either. This was also an opportunity in terms of margins that we’re now losing,” Crosetto said, without providing further details.

China and Germany on Wednesday defended their business ties with Iran in the face of Trump’s warning that any companies trading with the country would be barred from the United States.

Several European companies have suspended plans to invest in Iran, including oil major Total as well as carmakers PSA, Renault and Daimler.

Also:

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is to visit top trading partners Turkey and Iran next week, an official said Saturday, days after Washington slapped new sanctions on Tehran and piled economic pressure on Ankara.

Abadi “will head to Turkey on Tuesday and Iran on Wednesday to discuss economic affairs with the two countries,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Iraq is the second-largest importer of Iranian non-hydrocarbon products, buying some $6 billion (5 billion euros) worth of goods from its eastern neighbour in 2017.

It also buys in Iranian-generated electricity in efforts to deal with chronic power cuts that have been a key factor sparking mass protests in recent weeks.

Abadi on Tuesday said Iraq would reluctantly comply with sanctions against Tehran which took effect the same day.

It came after the administration of Trump’s, unilateral withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

“We don’t support the sanctions because they are a strategic error, but we will comply with them,” Abadi said.

Baghdad is allied with Washington, a strategic partner in the war that saw Iraq declare “victory” over Islamic State jihadists in late 2017.

But it also has strong ties to Tehran, a Shiite powerhouse that is heavily involved in Iraq’s political affairs.

Abadi’s visit to Ankara is also overshadowed by a bitter row between NATO allies Turkey and the US.

Trump said Friday he was doubling steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey as part of an ongoing row over the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson and other issues.

The row has caused the Turkish lira to crash, dropping 16 percent against the dollar on Friday.

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