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Iran: US 'must lift sanctions' before we talk

August 6, 2019

Iran's president has urged Washington to drop paralyzing sanctions as a confidence-building measure for direct talks. The US has increased pressure against the Islamic republic amid rising tensions in the Persian Gulf.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Image: Getty Images/AFP

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday demanded an end to US sanctions, describing it as a necessary precondition for direct negotiations.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran favors talks and negotiations and, if the US really wants to talk, before anything else it should lift all sanctions," Rouhani said in a televised speech.

Rouhani described the paralyzing economic sanctions as "economic terrorism." He cited the punitive measures blocking food and medicine imports as particularly distressing. 

"If it wants talks, it must prepare the path for it," Rouhani said. "The path to it is repent."

Read more: German government divided over joining Strait of Hormuz naval mission

Targeted sanctions

The US has reimposed sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, which had set limits on Iranian nuclear developments in exchange for an end to economic sanctions on Iran. 

In July, the US Treasury announced fresh sanctions targeting Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Rouhani praised the veteran diplomat during his speech on Tuesday. 

Rouhani said Tehran is prepared for direct talks despite US' stance on the Iran nuclear deal. "Whether they want to come into the JCPOA or not, it's up to them," he added.

Read moreOpinion: Iran's calculated escalation in the Persian Gulf 

'Strait for a strait'

Fears of open conflict have escalated in recent weeks after Iran captured British tanker Stena Impero for allegedly violating maritime standards. British forces had previously detained an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar for reputedly violating international sanctions on Syria.

Last week, Iran proposed de-escalating the situation by trading ships, a proposal the British government dismissed.

"A strait for a strait," Rouhani said. "It can't be that the Strait of Hormuz is free for you and the Strait of Gibraltar is not free for us." 

The UK has joined a US-led maritime security operation to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf. Germany has instead refused to join, saying it would only consider a European-led option.

Rouhani warned the US against interfering in maritime security in the Persian Gulf, describing open conflict with the Islamic republic as the "mother of all wars."

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ls,jns/rt (AFP, Reuters)