US denies visa to Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif, calls him a ‘propagandist’
The United States has denied Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif a visa to visit New York for a UN Security Council meeting and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed the Iranian official as a “propagandist” for his claim Qassem Soleimani was on a diplomatic mission in Iraq when he was killed.
Pompeo also doubled down on the Trump administration’s resolve to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, which was most reiterated by President Donald Trump in a tweet in all-caps Monday, following Tehran announcing suspending its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.
The top American diplomat joined other US officials, such as defense secretary Mark Esper, in tamping down controversy kicked up Trump’s threat to target Iranian cultural sites insisting the United States will abide by all international laws and commitments, without directly disputing the president.
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Zarif tweeted about the refusal of US visa to him Tuesday, taunting the United States, “What are they really afraid of? Truth?”
Pompeo refused answer in the affirmative when asked at a news briefing about the denial of visa, but the National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told Fox News, “I don’t think Secretary Pompeo thought that this was the right time for Mr. Zarif to come to the United States.”
In a string of interviews to US news networks, Foreign Minister Zarif accused the United Stated and President Trump of breaking international law, and threatened a “proportionate” response to the killing of Soleimani, the general who headed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force.
In in interview, the foreign minister said Soleimani was on a diplomatic mission when he was killed by the American drone strike outside the Baghdad airport.
Asked about this claim, Pompeo said Zarif was a “propagandist of the first order” who was peddling lies and propaganda. The United States has said Soleimani was planning “imminent” attacks on American facilities and personnel in the region, but it has not presented any proof of it, despite mounting calls from US lawmakers.
“If you’re looking for imminence you need only look at the days that led up to the strike that was taken against Soleimani,” Pompeo said, referring to the killing of an American contractor late December.
The secretary of state was scheduled to brief lawmakers on Capitol Hill later in the day, when he is expected to be as asked for evidence of the attacks that forced the Trump administrations to kill the Iranian general, plunging the region into a deepening crisis with prospects of military conflict.