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Iran: US Sanctions Outrageous, idiotic 06/25 06:13

   Iran on Tuesday sharply criticized new U.S. sanctions targeting the Islamic 
Republic's supreme leader and other top officials, saying the measures spell 
the "permanent closure" for diplomacy between the two nations. For his part, 
Iran's president described the White House as "afflicted by mental retardation."

   TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran on Tuesday sharply criticized new U.S. sanctions 
targeting the Islamic Republic's supreme leader and other top officials, saying 
the measures spell the "permanent closure" for diplomacy between the two 
nations. For his part, Iran's president described the White House as "afflicted 
by mental retardation."

   President Hassan Rouhani went on to call the sanctions against Supreme 
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "outrageous and idiotic," especially as the 
80-year-old Shiite cleric has no plans to ever travel to the United States.

   From Israel, Trump's national security adviser John Bolton said talks with 
the U.S. were still possible and that the U.S. is leaving an "open door" for 
Iran to walk through.

   But the comments from Tehran clearly showed its leaders think otherwise at a 
time of heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran over its nuclear 
program and Iran's downing of a U.S. military surveillance drone last week.

   "The fruitless sanctions on Iran's leadership and the chief of Iranian 
diplomacy mean the permanent closure of the road of diplomacy with the 
frustrated U.S. administration," said Abbas Mousavi, a Foreign Ministry 
spokesman, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

   The crisis gripping the Middle East is rooted in Trump withdrawing the U.S. 
a year ago from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal and imposing crippling new sanctions 
on Tehran. Recently, Iran quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium to 
be on pace to break one of the deal's terms by next week while also threatening 
to raise enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels on July 7 --- if Europe 
doesn't offer a new deal.

   Citing unspecified Iranian threats, the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to 
the Middle East and deployed additional troops alongside the tens of thousands 
already there. All this has raised fears that a miscalculation or further rise 
in tensions could push the U.S. and Iran into an open conflict, 40 years after 
the Islamic Revolution.

   President Donald Trump enacted the new sanctions on Monday against Khamenei 
and his associates.

   The sanctions follow Iran's downing last week of a U.S. surveillance drone, 
worth over $100 million, over the Strait of Hormuz, an attack that sharply 
escalated the crisis in the Persian Gulf. After the downing of the drone, Trump 
pulled back from the brink of retaliatory military strikes but continued his 
pressure campaign against Iran.

   U.S. officials also said they plan sanctions against Iranian Foreign 
Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, something that drew Rouhani's anger during his 
televised address on Tuesday.

   "You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks," 
an exasperated Rouhani said and called the sanctions "outrageous and idiotic."

   "The White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what 
to do," Rouhani added.

   There was no immediate reaction from Washington early on Tuesday to the 
remarks from Iran. The sharp comments are reminiscent of North Korea's verbal 
attacks on Trump before the dramatic change in course and the start of 
negotiations with Washington. However, in Iran's case, there are no signs 
Iranian leadership would welcome talks.

   Mousavi's statement echoed that of Iran's U.N. ambassador, Majid Takht 
Ravanchi, who warned on Monday that the situation in the Persian Gulf is "very 
dangerous" and said any talks with the U.S. are impossible in the face of 
escalating sanctions and intimidation. Meanwhile, the U.S. envoy at the United 
Nations, Jonathan Cohen, said the Trump administration's aim is to get Tehran 
back to negotiations.

   The sanctions were announced as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held 
talks in the Middle East with officials in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi 
Arabia about building a broad, global coalition that includes Asian and 
European countries to counter Iran. Pompeo is likely to face a tough sell in 
Europe and Asia, particularly from those nations still committed to the 2015 
nuclear deal.

   Meanwhile, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Trump was open to 
real negotiations to eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons program and "all that 
Iran needs to do is walk through that open door."

   Bolton was meeting with his Russian and Israel counterparts in a 
first-of-its-kind trilateral security summit in Jerusalem that was focused on 
Iranian involvement in conflicts across the region, particularly in neighboring 
Syria.

   "As we speak, American diplomatic representatives are surging across the 
Middle East, seeking a path to peace. In response, Iran's silence has been 
deafening," he said. "There is simply no evidence that Iran has made the 
strategic decision to renounce nuclear weapons and open realistic discussions 
to demonstrate that decision."


(KA)

 
 
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