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Iran's Rohani Accuses U.S. Of 'Economic Terrorism'

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Iranian President Hassan Rohani

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has told the UN General Assembly that Iran won’t negotiate on its nuclear program as long as it remains under sanctions, and accused the United States of "merciless economic terrorism."

"Our response to talks under pressure is 'No,'" Rohani told world leaders gathered at the UN headquarters in New York on September 25, adding that Iranian officials cannot negotiate with "people who claim to have applied the harshest sanctions in history."

He also said that Iran has been “defending its right to independence and scientific and technological progress," while the United States has "made a lot of efforts" to "deprive Iran from participating in the international economy," calling it "international piracy."

Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since the United States last year withdrew from a 2015 international deal between Iran and world powers under which Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear activities in return for an easing of sanctions.

The United States has since reimposed and expanded sanctions on Iran, targeting its oil exports and crippling its economy, and Tehran has begun reducing some of its commitments under the nuclear accord.

U.S. President Donald Trump wants to force Iran to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear accord, arguing that the terms were not tough enough to prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons, and agree curbs to its ballistic-missile program.

Iran has refused, insisting that its nuclear program was strictly for civilian energy purposes.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated further over a September 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities that the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Western European countries have blamed on Iran.

Yemen's Iran-backed Shi’ite Huthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the drone and missile attack, and Tehran denies any involvement.

Rohani on September 25 said that the security of Saudi Arabia, which is leading a military coalition that has been battling the Huthis since 2015, "will be guaranteed with the termination of aggression in Yemen."

Amid concerns that heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf could lead to direct conflict, the Iranian president warned: "Our region is on the edge of collapse, as a single blunder can fuel a big fire."

Addressing the General Assembly on September 24, Trump called on all nations to act against “the repressive regime in Iran" and not "subsidize Iran's bloodlust."

Denouncing "four decades of failure" since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Trump warned that U.S. sanctions will not be eased unless Tehran changes its behavior.

On September 25, the U.S. Treasury Department announced it had placed sanctions on 11 Chinese nationals and entities it accused of knowingly transferring oil from Iran.

"We're telling China and all nations: know that we will sanction every violation of [U.S.] sanctions of all activity," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a New York meeting hosted by a lobby group opposed to Iran's clerical regime.

"Sanctions will not be lifted, they will be tightened," Pompeo said, adding that the goal is to get Iran to the negotiating table.

"The more Iran lashes out, the greater our pressure will and should be," he also said.

At a news conference with Trump later in the day, Pompeo said the United States wants “a peaceful resolution with the Islamic Republic of Iran."

"In the end, it'll be up to the Iranians to make that decision, or whether they'll choose violence and hate," Pompeo added.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the remaining parties to the Iran nuclear agreement had agreed to continue efforts to preserve the pact.

"It is in the interests of all to remain committed to the deal, but it is becoming increasingly difficult," Mogherini told reporters after hosting closed-door talks with representatives from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and Iran on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

With reporting by AP, dpa, AFP, and Reuters
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