Iran's Zarif warns of risk from 'extremist' individuals in US government

Reuters , Tuesday 14 May 2019

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (Photo: AP)

Iran's foreign minister said on Tuesday that "extremist individuals" in the U.S. government were pursuing dangerous policies, amid a war of words with Washington over sanctions.

Mohammad Javad Zarif was in New Delhi for talks with Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj after New Delhi stopped purchases of Iranian oil this month in the wake of renewed U.S. sanctions.

Tensions have risen again after Saudi Arabia said armed drones had struck two oil pumping stations in the kingdom on Tuesday in what it called a "cowardly" act of terrorism two days after Saudi oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

A U.S. official familiar with American intelligence said Iran was a prime suspect in the sabotage although Washington had no conclusive proof.

Iran has rejected the allegation and Zarif said the issue had figured in the talks with Indian leaders.

"In this meeting there was also discussion of the worries about the actions and suspicious sabotage in the region ..." Zarif told the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

"And we announced that we had predicted these kinds of actions for provoking tension in the region before."

Zarif said he discussed the regional situation with his Indian counterpart.

"In today's meeting we discussed regional issues and the dangers of the policies, extremist individuals in the American government and the region are trying to impose on the region," Zarif told IRNA.

Washington wants to block Iran's oil exports after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 accord between Iran and six world powers to curb Tehran's nuclear programme.

India, which was Iran's top oil client after China, has suspended imports of Iranian oil from this month after Washington withdrew waivers to eight nations, including India, which had allowed them to import some Iranian oil from November.

"There is an expectation from their (Iranian) side that we will continue to buy oil," an Indian government official who attended the meeting said.

A second Indian government source said New Delhi would decide on resuming purchases of Iranian oil keeping in mind its commercial considerations, energy security and economic interests.

Zarif's visit to New Delhi was part of Iran's consultation with other countries in the region including Russia, China, Turkmenistan, and Iraq over the past few days.

The sanctions have more than halved Iran's oil exports to 1 million barrels per day (bpd) or less, from a peak of 2.8 million bpd last year. Exports could drop to as low as 500,000 bpd from May, an Iranian official told Reuters this month.

But Iran insists on exporting at least 1.5 million bpd of oil, triple May's expected levels under U.S. sanctions, as a condition for staying in an international nuclear deal, sources with knowledge of Iran-EU talks said.

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