Zarif Denies Russia Mediating to Help Delay Sanctions

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed a claim by the US security chief that Moscow was in talks with Washington on Tehran's behalf to persuade the US administration to postpone a November plan to reimpose sanctions on Iran's oil exports.

"It is common for the Americans to make baseless claims. Russia is not negotiating on behalf of Iran and has never done so in the past. If and when Iran decides to negotiate, it will be capable of doing so on its own," Zarif was quoted by Mehr News Agency as saying on Friday.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton claimed on Thursday the White House had rejected a Russian proposal to put off sanctions on Iran’s oil sector in exchange for a rollback of Iranian involvement in the Syria conflict.

John Bolton’s comments to reporters came after a meeting in Geneva with his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev.

“Patrushev brought up the [alleged] suggestion that the Russians made previously to Israel, France and Germany about the geographic constriction of Iranian forces in exchange for the United States suspending the imposition of the oil sanctions now set for early November. That was a suggestion we had rejected before and rejected it again today,” Bolton said.

Fresh US sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors are set to come into force in November as part of Trump’s controversial decision in May to quit the nuclear deal, citing its failure to address Iran’s support for resistance groups and role in conflicts in the Middle East, among other pretexts.

A first batch of sanctions targeting Iran’s automotive industry and trade in gold and precious metals took effect last month.

*** Psychological Campaign

Zarif rejected Bolton's remarks as part of a psychological campaign targeting Iran's economy.

"We believe the US regional policies are extremely dangerous, and its treatment of the JCPOA has led to a complete loss of its credibility. So the US moves are primarily aimed at creating an atmosphere of political stunt and psychological war," he said, using the abbreviation for the nuclear deal's official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

"They [Americans] are waging an economic war that is mainly driven by a psychological campaign in and outside Iran."

Iran and Russia are key backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose government has been struggling to end a civil war that has been raging for seven years.

While Russia has called for all non-Syrian troops to leave southern Syria, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov  dismissed a US-Israeli demand for a complete withdrawal of Iranian forces from the war-ravaged  Arab country as “absolutely unrealistic”.

Bolton earlier told Reuters that Russian President Vladimir Putin had told US officials Moscow could not compel the Iranians to submit to such a demand.

Iran has said the withdrawal of its advisory missions from Syria hinges on Assad’s request.

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