Iran accused the United States of "economic aggression" as Tehran’s legal challenge against renewed sanctions went before the United Nations' highest court.
Tehran filed its complaint with the International Court of Justice in July, claiming that the sanctions reimposed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration breach a decades-old friendship treaty between Washington and Tehran.
Trump ordered the sanctions renewed following Washington’s withdrawal from the landmark 2015 nuclear accord that curbed Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for lifting crippling sanctions.
Speaking on August 27 at the start of four days of hearings, a lawyer representing Iran, Mohsen Mohebi, told the court in The Hague that the U.S. sanctions violate terms of the 1955 treaty signed by the United States and Iran.
"The U.S. is publicly propagating a policy intended to damage as severely as possible Iran's economy and Iranian national companies, and therefore inevitably Iranian nationals," he said.
Mohebi also argued that the sanctions were unjustified since, he said, Tehran was abiding by the terms of the landmark 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and six world powers.
"This policy is nothing but a naked economic aggression against my country," the lawyer added.
In Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejected Iran’s claims.
"We will vigorously defend against Iran's meritless claims this week in The Hague," he said in a statement.
In an initial written submission to the court, the United States said it believed The Hague court has no jurisdiction in the case and that Iran's assertions fall outside the bounds of the treaty.
A court ruling was expected within a month, but no date has been set.
Rulings of the ICJ -- also known as the World Court -- are binding, but it does not have power to enforce them. Occasionally, they are ignored by countries involved.
The 1955 treaty, known as the Treaty of Amity, called for "friendly relations" between the two countries, encourages mutual trade and investment, and regulates diplomatic ties.
It was signed at a time of close relations between Washington and Tehran, a long before the 1979 Islamic Revolution brought about decades of hostility between the two.
While Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear pact, other signees of the treaty – mainly Washington’s European allies -- urged Washington to remain in the deal and have vowed to stay in it themselves.
The U.S. sanctions target Iran's car industry, trade in gold and other precious metals, and purchases of U.S. dollars crucial to support its oil exports and other global trade.
Further U.S. sanctions are due to go into effect in November specifically targeting Iran's banking sector and oil industry, which drives growth in the Iranian economy.
The sanctions have hit Iran hard, with the country's currency losing much of its value, leading to protests on the streets of many Iranian cities.