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New sanctions placed on Iran

Europe cool to anti-Iran coalition

President Donald Trump holds up a signed executive order to increase sanctions on Iran, in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, June 24, 2019, in Washington. Trump is accompanied by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, left, and Vice President Mike Pence. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON/RIYADH, June 24, (Agencies): US President Donald Trump imposed new US sanctions on Iran on Monday following Tehran’s downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil. Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone.

He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called “the hostile conduct of the regime.” “Sanctions imposed through the executive order … will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader’s office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support,” Trump said.

The Trump administration wants to force Tehran to open talks on its nuclear and missile programmes and its activities in the region. Iran said on Monday US cyber attacks on its military had failed, as Washington sought to rally support in the Middle East and Europe for a hardline stance that has brought it to the verge of confl ict with its longtime foe.

Washington has blamed Tehran for attacks on tankers in the Gulf in recent weeks, which Iran denies. On Monday, the United States said it was building a coalition with allies to protect Gulf shipping lanes. A coalition of nations would provide both material and financial contributions to the program, a senior US State Department official said, without identifying the countries. “It’s about proactive deterrence, because the Iranians just want to go out and do what they want to do and say hey we didn’t do it. We know what they’ve done,” the official told reporters, adding that the deterrents would include cameras, binoculars and ships.

European officials appear cool toward US talk of building a global coalition against Iran, saying that their top priority is to de-escalate tensions in the region as they cling to hopes of salvaging the nuclear deal with Tehran. The split over Iran comes amid deepening divisions between the United States and its European allies over foreign policy and trade, with the allies appearing to talk past each other on a matter that both view as a crucial security issue.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday as he headed for a visit to Middle Eastern allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that he would discuss “how we can build out a global coalition” against Tehran that also includes Asia and Europe, describing Iran as “the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.” German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger said Monday that Berlin had “taken note via the media” of Pompeo’s comments on a coalition, a formulation that indicated Berlin had yet to be asked to join directly.

He added that “our top aim is and remains a de-escalation of the serious situation,” pointing to contacts at various levels with the US and noting that various representatives of the three European countries have recently been in Tehran. European trio Germany, France and Britain, as well as Russia and China, remain part of the nuclear deal that Trump’s administration abandoned last year.

The 2015 agreement aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Germany argues that the agreement, beyond ensuring that Iran doesn’t produce nuclear weapons, also helps keep open lines of communication with Tehran to address other concerns about its behavior in the Middle East. Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, on Sunday doubled down on criticism of the Trump administration’s strategy of “maximum pressure” against Tehran, which is weighing heavily on Iran’s economy.

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