Iran dismisses new US pressure, calls for ‘mutual respect’

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country “does not respond well to threats”.

world Updated: Feb 20, 2017 15:17 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press
Associated Press, Munich
Iran,Donald Trump,Mohammad Javad Zarif
Iran foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday.(Reuters)

Iran’s foreign minister brushed aside new pressure from the United States on Sunday, declaring that his country is “unmoved by threats” but responds well to respect.

“Iran doesn’t respond well to threats,” Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of top diplomats and defence officials. “We don’t respond well to coercion. We don’t respond well to sanctions, but we respond very well to mutual respect. We respond very well to arrangements to reach mutually acceptable scenarios.”

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticised the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran, the US and five other world powers, under which Tehran agreed to curb its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. His administration has said Iran was “on notice” over a recent ballistic missile test, and imposed new sanctions on more than two dozen Iranian companies and individuals.

“Everybody tested us for many years — all threats and coercions were imposed on us,” Zarif said. The minister mocked “the concept of crippling sanctions,” which he said merely ended with Iran having acquired thousands more centrifuges, used for enriching uranium.

Asked how long it would take Iran if it decided it wanted nuclear weapons, Zarif replied: “We are not going to produce nuclear weapons, period. So it will take forever for Iran to produce nuclear weapons.”

Meanwhile, Iran’s regional rivals aired a laundry list of grievances about Tehran’s behaviour, pointing to the wars in Syria and Yemen, among other issues.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, argued that the Iranians “stepped up the tempo of their mischief” during the negotiations on the nuclear deal and have continued to do so since then.

“I believe that Iran knows where the red lines are if the red lines are drawn clearly, and I believe that the world has to make it clear to the Iranians that there is certain behavior that will not be tolerated, and that there will be consequences,” Jubeir told the conference. “And those consequences have to be in tune with the financial side.”

Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman insisted that the main challenges facing the region are “Iran, Iran and Iran.” Asked what approach he seeks against Iran, he replied: “It’s a combination of economic pressure, very tough policy and of course to impose the resolutions of (the UN) Security Council, for example the ballistic missiles.”

US senator Lindsey Graham said that Iran has been working to try and build a nuclear weapon, and “if they say they haven’t, they’re lying.” He proposed new sanctions in Iran for various reasons, including what he said were violations of UN resolutions and destabilising the Middle-East.

“I think it is now time for the Congress to take Iran on directly,” he said. “I think most Republicans are on board with that concept and we’ll see where President Trump’s at.”

First Published: Feb 19, 2017 17:06 IST