US imposes financial sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister
Mohammad Javad Zarif penalised a month after sanctions on supreme leader
Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photograph: Manaure Quintero/Reuters
The US government has imposed financial sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as part of its escalating campaign of pressure against the country.
The highly unusual action of penalising the top diplomat of another nation comes a month after US president Donald Trump signed an executive order placing sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Mr Zarif, in response to the sanctioning, tweeted: “It has no effect on me or my family, as I have no property or interests outside of Iran. ”
US officials said Mr Zarif’s travels to New York for official UN business would not be inhibited by the new sanctions, in accordance with America’s international obligations.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration extended waivers allowing foreign firms to work at Iranian nuclear facilities without US penalties.
In a notice sent to Congress, the State Department said it had extended for 90 days waivers that permit European, Russian and Chinese companies to conduct civilian-nuclear cooperation at several Iranian sites.
The waivers, which were due to expire on Thursday, had been the subject of heated internal debate, with Iran hawks opposed to their extension but others arguing that more time was needed to allow companies to wind down their operations.
The waivers are the last remaining elements that the US still recognises from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal from which Mr Trump withdrew last year.
In its notification to Congress, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, the State Department said that extending the waivers would “continue to serve both our Iran strategy and broader non-proliferation goals by constraining Tehran’s nuclear capabilities for as long as possible while we work toward a new deal that addresses the totality of Iran’s malign behaviour”.
But deal critics, including Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, said the waivers should be revoked because they give Iran access to technology that could be used for weapons.
Deal supporters said the waivers gave international experts a valuable window into Iran’s atomic program that might otherwise not exist. They also say some of the work is humanitarian in nature. – AP