June 24, 2019 / 9:47 PM / 2 months ago

At U.N., Iran says atmosphere not right for U.S. talks, U.S. pushes diplomacy

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran’s United Nations ambassador accused the United States on Monday of showing no respect for international law by imposing new sanctions on Iran, describing tensions between the pair as “really dangerous” and not the right atmosphere for talks.

“You cannot start a dialogue with somebody who is threatening you, who is intimidating you,” Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi told reporters. “How can we start a dialogue with somebody whose primary occupation is to put more sanctions on Iran? The atmosphere of such a dialogue is not ready yet.”

Earlier on Monday U.S. President Donald Trump targeted Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other senior officials with new U.S. sanctions, looking for a fresh blow to Iran’s economy after Tehran downed an unmanned American drone.

The United States has also blamed Iran for attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf region in May and June. Iran has denied any involvement.

Ravanchi spoke as the U.N. Security Council met behind closed doors over Iran at the request of the United States.

Following the two-hour meeting, the 15-member council condemned the attacks on the oil tankers as a “serious threat to maritime navigation and energy supply” and urged maximum restraint by concerned parties and countries in the region.

“Council members urged that differences must be addressed peacefully and through dialogue,” said Kuwait’s U.N. Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi, president of the Security Council for June.

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen told reporters after the meeting that Washington’s policy on Iran “remains an economic and diplomatic effort to bring Iran back to the negotiating table.”

Ravanchi called on the United States to withdraw its naval ships from the Gulf region and “move away from economic warfare against the Iranian people.”

“The situation is really dangerous and all we should do is try to de-escalate,” he said.

Iran also said on June 17 that it would breach internationally agreed curbs on its stock of low-enriched uranium in 10 days, but that European nations could still save a nuclear deal that sets those limits.

“We have been discussing how to move forward with our European colleagues,” Ravanchi said. “It is incumbent on them to compensate what we have lost as a result of the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal.”

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen speaks to the media after closed door Security Council meetings on Iran at the U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., June 24, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton.

Most U.N. sanctions imposed on Iran were lifted in January 2016 when the U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed that Tehran fulfilled commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal with Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and the United States. The Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the deal last year.

Under the nuclear deal there is a process culminating at the U.N. Security Council that can trigger a so-called snapback of all sanctions if Iran violates the agreement.

When asked if the Europeans had threatened a sanctions snapback if Iran breaches the cap on its stock of low-enriched uranium, Ravanchi said: “Our discussions with our European colleagues are ongoing, we discussed a number of issues, but ... we cannot accept any intimidation or any threat from anybody.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by James Dalgleish

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