- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 17, 2019

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - The Latest on tensions in the Persian Gulf amid a crisis between the United States and Iran (all times local):

8:30 p.m.

Iran’s foreign minister is telling a United Nations gathering that U.S. sanctions against his country amount to what he calls “economic terrorism.”

Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke Wednesday at a sustainable development forum. He decried the U.S. sanctions and said “economic terrorism” is “deliberately targeting innocent civilians to achieve illegitimate political objectives.”

The U.S. re-imposed tough sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports after withdrawing last year from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and several world powers. U.S. President Donald Trump called the deal one-sided.

The sanctions exacerbated an economic crisis that has sent Iran’s currency plummeting.

Iran recently began surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in the deal.

Tehran has said the moves can be reversed if the pact’s other participants come up with economic incentives that effectively offset the American sanctions.


2:55 p.m.

Iran’s foreign minister says his country has no choice but to manufacture missiles for defensive purposes - comments that come after a remark by the top diplomat that seemed to suggest the missiles could be up for negotiations.

Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with NBC News that aired earlier this week that if the U.S. wants to talk about Iran’s missiles, it needs “first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region.”

However, Iran has long rejected negotiations over its missile program.

Zarif on Wednesday referred to the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and said that, “For 8 YEARS, Saddam (Hussein) showered our cities with missiles & bombs provided by East & West. Meanwhile, NO ONE sold Iran any means of defense. We had no choice but building our own. Now they complain.”

Zarif also said: “Instead of skirting the issue, US must end arms sales to Saddam’s reincarnations.”


1:35 p.m.

Portugal’s foreign ministry is clarifying that its decision to temporarily stop granting visas to Iranians is due to work on improving security at its Tehran consular building.

The foreign ministry says the decision is not linked to any assessment of security conditions in Iran or any political consideration.

The ministry issued the clarification in a statement late on Tuesday, hours after Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told a Portuguese parliament committee the halt on issuing visas to Iranians was due to “security reasons.”

At the time he declined to give more information about what was behind the decision, saying he would only provide details privately to lawmakers on the committee.


1:30 p.m.

The husband of a British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Iran says she has been transferred to a hospital mental health facility.

Richard Ratcliffe said on Wednesday that his 40-year-old wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is now in the mental health ward of Iman Khomeini hospital in Tehran.

He says he is “hopeful” this means she will be receiving better treatment and care.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Iran while traveling with the couple’s young daughter in April 2016 and has been sentenced to five years in prison after being accused of spying, which she denies.

She and her husband recently ended a hunger strike designed to call attention to her plight. British officials have failed to secure her release despite repeated efforts.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe works for the charitable Thomson Reuters Foundation.


9:20 a.m.

Iran says remarks by the country’s foreign minister about Iran’s missile program possibly being up for negotiations with the U.S. meant to challenge Washington’s arms sales policy to the region - and were not meant to indicate a readiness by Tehran for any such talks.

The Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, tweeted late on Tuesday that Mohammad Javad Zarif’s comments “threw the ball into the U.S. court while challenging America’s arm sales” to its Mideast allies.

Zarif had said in an NBC News interview that if the U.S. wants to talk about Iran’s missiles, “they need first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region.”

Iran has long rejected negotiations over its missile program.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations also described Zarif’s comments as purely “hypothetical.”

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