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Iran FM heads to New York for UN conference

Iran's Foreign Minister will attend a UN meeting in New York [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 July, 2019

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Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will attend a UN meeting in New York, after the US came close to sanctioning him amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Iran's Foreign Minister travelled to New York on Saturday for a United Nations conference, amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Javad Zarif will attend a meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Reuters reported citing Iran's state news agency IRNA. He will then fly on to Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin publicly threatened to blacklist Zarif from the US last month. 

But two sources told Reuters on Thursday that the US won't sanction the moderate minister at this time. 

The US could be "leaving the door open to diplomacy", the sources said, by not issuing sanctions on Zarif, as other leading figures of the Iranian government have been. 

Sanctioning Zarif would have blocked off a vital channel for negotiations between Iran and the US, after Washington issued crippling sanctions on the Tehran government.

"Cooler heads prevailed. We ... saw it as not necessarily helpful," one source told Reuters, adding that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had opposed sanctioning Zarif "for the time being".

Trump's administration are said to be particularly unhappy with Zarif due to his use of Twitter to fire angry insults at the president and has referred to his team as second-raters who "despise diplomacy, and thirst for war", the agency added.

So close were the US to ignoring Pompeo's advice regarding Zarif that the treasury department internally circulated a draft press release announcing the sanctions.

A recent interception off the coast of Gibraltar of an Iranian oil tanker allegedly heading to Syria has further stoked already high tensions in the region, as the Trump administration continues its campaign of maximum pressure on Iran.

The US has sent thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Middle East.

Fears are growing over a wider conflict after mysterious oil tanker attacks near the Strait of Hormuz were blamed on Tehran by the US.

Iran downed a US spy drone last month, with President Donald Trump coming close to ordering retaliatory airstrikes.

Iran has recently begun surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to President Donald Trump's decision to pull the US out of the accord a year ago.

The US has also re-imposed tough sanctions on Tehran's oil exports, exacerbating an economic crisis that has sent its currency plummeting.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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