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US needs to lift all sanctions first if it seeks talks with Iran: President Rouhani

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C) delivers a speech as he visits the Foreign Ministry, in Tehran, August 6, 2019.

President Hassan Rouhani says the US’s sanctions against the Iranian people amount to crime against humanity, stressing that Washington needs to lift all its bans if it really seeks negotiations with Tehran.

“If the United States wants to negotiate, it must lift the sanctions in their entirety before anything” so that it will not be accounted as a violator of human rights, said Rouhani on Tuesday. “We can’t talk to a criminal.”

The Iranian President, who was speaking during a visit to Iran’s Foreign Ministry, lashed out at Washington for unilaterally pulling out of a multilateral 2015 nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and reinstating its harsh economic sanctions against Iran.

The president further questioned the US government’s sincerity in its repeated offers of talks to Tehran, which have come in parallel with the “maximum pressure” campaign underway against the Iranian nation.

He added that the recent bans targeting Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are not in harmony with Washington’s claims of seeking negotiations with Tehran.

Rouhani further blasted the US for waging “economic terrorism” against the Iranian people, calling on Americans to reconsider their behavior and “pave the ground for negotiations.”

Washington, he said, cannot force the Iranian people to change their views through sanctions and pressure.

President Rouhani further described the 2015 Iran’s nuclear deal as a diplomatic “victory” for the country, saying that US President Donald Trump admitted himself that Iran ‘never lost a negotiation.’

Rouhani was referring to Trump’s tweet last month when he said that “Iran “never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!”

‘Peace for peace, security for security’

Elsewhere, President Rouhani defended Iran’s recent moves to shoot down an intruding US drone and seize a British oil tanker for violating international rules.

“The downing of the American drone with the Iranian missile was a symbol of Iranian might.  The British vessels had long been [deliberately] making mistakes in maritime traffic and were overlooking” rules, he said.

The Iranian chief executive warned that Iran’s security must be respected if the US seeks to ensure the safety of its forces in the Persian Gulf region.

“Peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, war with Iran is the mother of all wars. You (Americans) cannot harm our security and expect security for yourself in return,” Rouhani said.

The president said the downing of the US drone and the seizure of the UK tanker were the outcome of Washington and London’s own hostile policies against Iran.

“Security for Security, peace for peace, a strait for a strait and oil for oil,” Rouhani emphasized. “You cannot enjoy freedom in the Strait of Hormuz, but close the Strait of Gibraltar to us,” added the president, referring to the illegal seizure by the UK of an Iranian oil tanker sailing in the waters off Gibraltar’s coast last month.

‘US bans made Zarif even more popular’

Rouhani’s visit to the Foreign Ministry comes days after Trump’s administration imposed sanctions on Zarif for what Tehran views as Washington’s fear of the top diplomat’s eloquent delivery of the Iranian nation’s message to the world.

In his Tuesday remarks, President Rouhani said the recent US sanctions against Iran’s foreign minister failed to undermine him and that Zarif has now grown to be “stronger and more popular.”

“If you sanctioned our foreign minister to sow discord, you are still wrong. Today the whole nation is behind our foreign minister,” he said.

Zarif said Monday that he had been sanctioned by the US after turning down an invitation to the White House by President Trump.

By imposing the boycott on him, Washington has closed the door to diplomacy, he said, noting, “Sanctioning a foreign minister means failure in talks.”

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