August 31, 2019 / 8:08 AM / 3 months ago

Iran official says U.S. showing 'some flexibility' on oil sales

DUBAI (Reuters) - A senior Iranian official said on Saturday the United States had shown flexibility on the licensing of Iranian oil sales and this was a sign that Washington’s “maximum pressure” policy against Tehran had been defeated, state media reported.

FILE PHOTO: Iran's deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi (L), with visiting senior French diplomat Emmanuel Bonne in Tehran, Iran, July 10, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS.

French President Emmanuel Macron paved the way at a G7 summit a week ago for a potential diplomatic solution to a confrontation between the United States and Iran brewing since President Donald Trump withdrew Washington last year from world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

“Macron met with ...Trump during the G7 meeting and the U.S. side has shown some flexibility in the licensing of Iranian oil sales,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as saying.

“This is a breach in the U.S. maximum pressure policy and a success for Iran’s policy of maximum resistance,” he said.

Araqchi did not elaborate, and there was no immediate French or U.S. comment.

Since ditching the nuclear deal, calling it flawed to Iran’s advantage, Trump has reimposed sanctions to strangle its vital oil trade and force Tehran to accept stricter limits on its nuclear activity, curb its ballistic missile program and end its support for proxy forces around the Middle East.

Araqchi said Iran and its European partners in the nuclear deal faced “difficult and complex” talks towards salvaging the pact. He said Tehran was determined to continue reducing its commitments under the accord until it received protection against sanctions on its oil sales and banking transactions.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged his people on Wednesday to unite to overcome Washington’s “economic war” while his government said it would use diplomacy to try to solve the standoff even though it distrusted Trump.

IRANIAN TANKER BLACKLISTED

On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying Washington had reliable information the vessel was headed to Syria, an ally of Tehran.

The ship was detained by Britain off Gibraltar in July due to suspicions it was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. It was released in mid-August after Iran gave assurances that its cargo was not destined for Syria.

Turkey said on Friday the ship was headed to Lebanese waters after changing course several times. Beirut said it was not informed of the plan, but Turkey’s information suggested that a ship-to-ship transfer of cargo might be attempted once it nears the coast of Lebanon, which borders on Syria.

A senior Iranian military commander vowed that Iran would retaliate if any of its vessels was stopped in international waters, according to Fars news agency.

“Piracy against Iran can’t be easily overlooked. It is natural for us to act when Iranian ships are stopped in any part of the world’s waters. Iran’s armed forces will certainly retaliate,” Brigadier General Kiumars Heydari, the head of Iran’s regular ground forces, told Fars.

Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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