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Iran’s foreign minister dismissed the effectiveness of Western economic sanctions on Thursday night and vowed that newly installed President Hassan Rowhani would do his “best to remove the western embargoes,” according to state-run media reports.
As American lawmakers look to ramp up sanctions in the coming weeks, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif indicated that Tehran’s new leadership has no plans to change course with regard to the country’s nuclear ambitions.
“Sanctions put people under pressure, but they will not force a change in foreign policy and the West should understand this,” Zarif was quoted as saying by Iran’s Fars News Agency. “This is not the right way to deal with Iran.”
Zarif went on to stress “the ineffectiveness of Western sanctions,” according to Fars.
Zarif’s statements came on the same day as the release of a new report that shows evidence of Iran paving over purported nuclear warhead testing sites.
Rowhani, a so-called “moderate,” has expressed support for Iran’s nuclear program and begun to adopt the same anti-Western rhetoric that his predecessor was known to engage in.
Zarif suggested that Rowhani would “play a strong and instrumental role on the international scene” to end economic sanctions on Iran.
While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has submitted reams of evidence indicating that Iran continues to clandestinely build nuclear weapons and enrich uranium, the key component in a bomb, Tehran continues to issue strong denials that they are seeking a nuclear weapon.
The West has “never presented any corroborative evidence to substantiate their allegations,” state-run Fars maintained.
A top Iranian lawmaker also claimed that sanctions have failed earlier in the week.
“Effective measures should be taken to remove sanctions imposed on the country, although they have proven to be ineffective so far,” said Avaz Heidarpour , a member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission.
While Heidarpour “underlined the ineffectiveness of the US-led unilateral sanctions against Iran,” according to Fars, he also called on Rowhani to take decisive steps to end them.
Congress is expected to pass tougher sanctions legislation when they return to Capitol Hill next month.
The House passed sanctions legislation last month, possibly creating the backlash among Iranian officials.
The head of Iran’s national oil company admitted last week that Tehran has successfully skirted Western embargoes.
Iran claims to have at least $1.8 trillion in oil reserves.
“Iran remains the second largest oil producer of OPEC right behind Saudi Arabia,” Iran’s oil minister was quoted as saying during a conference earlier this month.
Rowhani’s appointment of Zarif as his foreign minister is believed to be a sign that the new Iranian administration is serious about stymying U.S.-led sanctions.
Like Rowhani, the U.S.-educated Zarif has been dubbed a moderate by the American media despite his close ties to Iran’s hardline ruling regime.
Zarif promised his superiors that he would “not withdraw one iota” of support for what he dubbed Tehran’s “nuclear rights,” during his confirmation hearing.
Iran appears to have been caught erasing evidence of a secret nuclear warhead testing sight, according to a recently released investigation by a top U.S. watchdog group.
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) released a series of satellite photos that it says show Iran paving over the site.
“Recent commercial satellite imagery shows new paving and the extent of alternations undertaken at the Parchin site since February 2012,” the report states. “DigitalGlobe imagery from Aug. 13, 2013 shows that the majority of the area at the site has now been asphalted.”