Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that U.S. sanctions against Iran are targeting Iran's "destabilizing activities" -- not the Iranian people or the "legitimate" business activities of other countries.
Tillerson was speaking to journalists on October 25 following talks with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi.
"As we are taking actions to impose sanctions on the regime...it’s our objective to deny financing capacity and to disrupt the activities related to these malign behaviors," he said, citing Iran's ballistic-missile program, "export of arms to terrorist organizations," and involvement in conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has taken a tougher line with Iran, threatening to withdraw the United States from the 2015 nuclear accord, under which the Islamic republic agreed to curtail its nuclear activities in exchange for relief from international sanctions.
Meanwhile, Washington has imposed several rounds of sanctions on individuals and entities over Tehran’s missile program and other "destabilizing actions."
"Our fight is not with the Iranian people," Tillerson insisted. "Our disagreements are with the revolutionary regime."
Tillerson also said that the United States sought to give "support for modern voices inside of Iran."
"We know there are strong feelings and values inside of Iran that we want to promote in terms of one day the Iranian people being able to retake control of their government," he added.
Asked about India's planned investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in the Iranian port of Chabahar, Tillerson said he saw "no contradiction" in the U.S. call for sanctions and the project.
Washington does not aim to "interfere with legitimate business activities that are going on with other businesses whether they be from Europe [or] India," he said.
Trump refused this month to certify Iran's compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Accusing Tehran of violating the "spirit" of the accord, Trump said on October 13 that he would ask Congress to strengthen a U.S. law to put additional pressure on Iran.
He added that the United States would work with allies to counter Iran’s "destabilizing activity" and support for "terrorist proxies," place additional sanctions on Tehran to block its financing of terror, and address the "regime’s proliferation of missiles and weapons that threaten its neighbors."
With reporting by AFP