Iran vows to 'proudly bypass' US sanctions

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani (centre) at a Cabinet meeting in the capital Teheran. He said the country is "in a situation of economic war, confronting a bullying power", as sanctions by the US took effect yesterday.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani (centre) at a Cabinet meeting in the capital Teheran. He said the country is "in a situation of economic war, confronting a bullying power", as sanctions by the US took effect yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TEHERAN • Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic Republic "will proudly bypass sanctions" by the United States that took effect yesterday targeting the country's oil and financial sectors.

The punitive steps described by the US as "the toughest sanctions ever" come six months after President Donald Trump's controversial decision to abandon the multi-nation nuclear deal with Iran.

"I announce that we will proudly bypass your illegal, unjust sanctions because it's against international regulations," Mr Rouhani said in a televised speech.

"We are in a situation of economic war, confronting a bullying power. I don't think that in the history of America, someone has entered the White House who is so against law and international conventions," he added.

Since Mr Trump took office early last year, the US has set Iran in its sights, accusing it of seeking to destabilise the Middle East.

Mr Trump announced in May that Washington would withdraw unilaterally from the landmark nuclear pact signed in 2015 between Teheran and major global powers.

The latest tranche of US sanctions aims to significantly cut Iran's oil exports - which have already fallen by up to one million barrels a day since May - and cut off its banks from international finance.

The Trump administration says it wants a new deal with Iran that curbs its interventions around the Middle East and missile programme - demands that have been flatly rejected by Teheran.

"Constantly they are sending us messages saying 'Let's sit and negotiate'. Negotiations for what?" said Mr Rouhani, adding: "First, you respect the negotiations we already concluded, so that there are grounds for the next negotiations."

Mr Rouhani said four countries had approached him during his visit to New York for the UN General Assembly in September, offering to mediate with the US but he turned them down.

"There is no need for mediation. There is no need for all these messages. Act on your commitments, and we will sit and talk," he said.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Washington had made itself more isolated by pursuing the sanctions.

"US bullying is backfiring... The US - and not Iran - is isolated," Mr Zarif said in a tweet yesterday.

In one of Teheran's bazaars, there was anxiety over the future.

"The shadow of the sanctions has already affected the economy in a disastrous way, people's purchasing power has plunged," said Mr Ehsan Attar in his herbal remedy shop.

Iran's economy was already suffering major structural problems - including widespread corruption, weak investment and a banking sector laden with toxic assets - before Mr Trump walked out of the nuclear deal.

Mr Trump's announcement in May also helped fuel a run on Iran's currency that has seen the rial lose more than two-thirds of its value, driving up prices and forcing the government to resort to food handouts for the country's poor.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2018, with the headline 'Iran vows to 'proudly bypass' US sanctions'. Print Edition | Subscribe