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Iran says US sanctioning of top diplomat 'childish' as tensions rise

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif looks on as he gives a press conference in Ankara, Turkey, on 17 April 2019 [Adem ALTAN/AFP/Getty]
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif looks on as he gives a press conference in Ankara, Turkey, on 17 April 2019 [Adem ALTAN/AFP/Getty]

Iran accused the United States on Thursday of “childish behaviour” driven by fear after Washington imposed sanctions on its foreign minister, fanning tensions between two foes at loggerheads over Gulf shipping and Iran’s nuclear programme, Reuters reports.

Fears of a Middle East war with global repercussions have risen since the United States ditched world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year and revived sanctions on Tehran.

The Islamic Republic has retaliated by resuming uranium enrichment seen in the West seen as a potential conduit to developing atomic bombs. Iran denies having any such objective.

After several attacks in May and June on oil tankers – blamed by Washington on Tehran, which denied responsibility – US President Donald Trump has been trying to forge a military coalition to secure Gulf waters, though European allies have been loath to join for fear of provoking open conflict.

READ: Does the US just want to change Iran’s role, or actually go to war?

European parties to the nuclear pact have called for diplomacy to defuse the crisis, but Tehran and Washington have taken hard lines and on Wednesday the Trump administration slapped sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister – a likely further blow to any chances for troubleshooting dialogue.

“They (Americans) are resorting to childish behaviour… They were claiming every day ‘We want to talk, with no preconditions’…and then they sanction (our) foreign minister,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on state television.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, a pivotal player in the nuclear deal who was educated and lived for years in the United States, dismissed the US action and said it would not affect him as he had no property or other interests in America.

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