Iran says new U.S. sanctions target Iranians' access to food, medicine

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s foreign minister on Saturday denounced renewed U.S. sanctions against its central bank as an attempt to deny ordinary Iranians access to food and medicine, and said the move was a sign of U.S. desperation.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif reacts during a news conference with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (not pictured) after their meeting in Moscow, Russia, September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/Files

The United States on Friday imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran, some aimed at its central bank and sovereign wealth fund, following attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia that Riyadh and U.S. officials have blamed on Iran.

Iran denies involvement in the attacks, which initially halved oil output from Saudi Arabia. Responsibility was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi movement, an Iranian-aligned group fighting a Saudi-led alliance in Yemen’s civil war.

“This is a sign of U.S. desperation … When they repeatedly sanction the same institution, this means their attempt at bringing the Iranian nation to its knees under ‘maximum pressure’ has failed,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters in remarks shown on state television.

“But this is dangerous and unacceptable as an attempt at blocking … the Iranian people’s access to food and medicine,” Zarif said, speaking after arriving in New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly next week.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports on social media said a number of Iranian websites — including those of some petrochemical firms — were under a cyber attack. There was no immediate official comment, and the websites of the main state oil company NIOC appeared to be functioning normally. Residents said their internet access was not affected.

The fresh sanctions target the Central Bank of Iran, which was already under other U.S. sanctions, the National Development Fund of Iran — the country’s sovereign wealth fund — and an Iranian company that U.S. officials say is used to conceal financial transfers for Iranian military purchases.

Zarif said he would meet on Wednesday with foreign ministers of the remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear accord, which was agreed with Britain, France, Germany China and Russia as well as the United States.

“As we have said before, the United States can only attend if it returns to the (nuclear accord) … and ends its economic war against Iran,” Zarif said.

The United States withdrew from the accord last year and re-imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran.

“I hope the U.S. government realizes that they are no longer the only economic superpower in the world and that there are many countries that want to benefit from the Iranian market,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, according to state media.

Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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