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Latest US sanctions ‘desperate’: Rouhani

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Iran says 'useless sanctions' signal end of diplomacy

DUBAI : New United States sanctions against Iran's Supreme Leader and Foreign Minister have closed off diplomacy, Iran said yesterday, blaming the US for abandoning the only route to peace just days after the two came within minutes of conflict.

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing sanctions on Monday against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other senior figures. Sanctions against Foreign Minister Mohmmad Javad Zarif are expected later this week.

The moves came after Iran shot down a US drone last week and Mr Trump called off a retaliatory air strike minutes before impact, which would have been the first time the US had bombed Iran in decades of hostility between them.

"Imposing useless sanctions on Iran's Supreme Leader and the commander of Iran's diplomacy is the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Twitter.

"Trump's desperate administration is destroying the established international mechanisms for maintaining world peace and security," Mr Mousavi tweeted.

President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who won two elections on promises to open Iran up to the world, described the US moves as desperate and called the White House "mentally retarded" - an insult Iranian officials have used about Mr Trump but a departure from Mr Rouhani's own more measured tone.

Mr Rouhani said: "Teheran's strategic patience does not mean we have fear."

The US has imposed crippling economic sanctions against Iran since last year, when Mr Trump withdrew from an agreement between Teheran and world powers to curb Iran's nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions.

The crisis has escalated sharply since last month, when the Trump administration tightened the sanctions, ordering all countries to halt purchases of Iranian oil.

That has effectively starved the Iranian economy of the main source of revenue Teheran uses to import food for its 81 million people, and left Iran's pragmatic faction with no benefits to show for its nuclear agreement.

The downing of the US drone - which Iran says was over its air space and the US says was international skies - was the culmination of weeks of rising tensions that had begun to take on a military dimension.

Washington's European allies have repeatedly warned both sides of the danger that a small mistake could lead to war.

Iran says it still aims to comply with the nuclear deal, but cannot do so indefinitely unless it receives some benefits. - REUTERS