Trump pledges to increase sanctions on Iran, but open to UN visit


U.S. President Donald Trump says he has directed the Treasury Department to "substantially increase" sanctions on Iran following the weekend attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

"I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!" Trump wrote in a tweet on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear what specific actions Trump had ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to take.

Trump later added that he would give more details on the sanctions over the next 48 hours.

Washington has ratcheted up its "maximum pressure" campaign on Iran, which it began after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reinstating hard-hitting oil and financial sanctions. It has also recently announced sanctions against the country's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as well as labelled Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organisation.

The Trump administration wants a broader deal that goes beyond nuclear issues and discusses Iran's ballistic missile programme and role in regional conflicts.

Tensions have mounted for months between Iran and the West after a series of fuel tankers were seized and Iran began rolling back its compliance with the nuclear accord.

However, the drone attack on the Saudi facilities marked a dramatic escalation in the confrontation, sparking oil supply concerns and fears of an outbreak of fighting between the U.S. and Iran.

The attack, claimed by Yemen's Iran-linked Houthi rebels, struck major Saudi oil installations. Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have blamed the attack on Iran, although Tehran denies the charges. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani earlier on Wednesday said Iran would consider talks with the United States only if Washington shows "goodwill" and by offering sanctions relief.

There has been speculation for weeks that Rouhani could hold talks with Trump on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next week. But after the events at the weekend, it is now unclear whether the Iranian delegation will be granted permission to enter the U.S..

According to the Iranian Fars news agency, Rouhani has not yet received a visa to attend the General Assembly, the UN's biggest annual diplomatic event. Iran's foreign minister on Wednesday confirmed that he and his delegation had not yet received the necessary paperwork.

"The trip to New York is not confirmed yet, because we do not have a U.S. visa," Zarif told Tasnim news agency, adding that the current U.S. administration was untrustworthy.

Rouhani was to fly to New York on Monday, a few days after Zarif.

Iran's national security council is set to decide on Thursday whether the country should cancel its participation in the General Assembly under these circumstances.

The UN is working on resolving the issue, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told reporters in New York on Wednesday.

"We have been in contact with all states in order to solve all outstanding visa problems in relation to delegations," the UN chief said without providing further details.

Trump on Wednesday said he supports allowing the Iranian delegation to visit the U.S. for next week's event. "I would let them come," the president told reporters travelling with him in San Diego, according to a White House pool report.    (dpa)

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