Zarif says Tehran 'will never start a war,' but will defend itself

TEHRAN, Jul. 18 (MNA) – Iran's foreign minister said the US is waging war against his country through intensifying economic sanctions that make civilians "the primary targets," but told CNN that his country "will never start a war" and that all parties should work to avoid one.

Zarif spoke to CNN's Fareed Zakaria Wednesday while in New York to attend meetings at the United Nations, where he described the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign as "economic terrorism" for the impact it is having on ordinary Iranians.

Iran's top diplomat also said he hasn't had any briefings on events surrounding the mysterious disappearance of a tanker in the Persian Gulf.

Asked by Zakaria about the possibility of a war with the US, Zarif said, "you cannot simply disregard a possibility of a disaster." Speaking at the residence of Iran's ambassador to the UN, Zarif noted that in 1988, a US warship in the Persian Gulf shot down an Iranian civilian airliner, killing all 290 passengers.

The US-educated foreign minister said that "we all need to work in order to avoid war," but added that "there is a war going on right now. It's an economic war -- an economic war against Iran targets civilian population."

Zarif noted that President Donald Trump is on the record saying "that he is not engaged in military war, but in an economic war." He added that "economic war is nothing to be proud of, because in a military confrontation, civilians may become collateral damage, but in an economic war, civilians are the primary targets."

"We defend our territory," Zarif told CNN. "The United States drone entered Iranian territory, entered Iranian airspace. It was shot down, because even without entering Iranian airspace, it could spy over our entire territory ... it not only threatened our territorial integrity, but it was threatening our national security. We will not tolerate foreigners coming 6,000 miles from their shores to our shores and threatening our national sovereignty and stability. "

Zakaria asked Zarif about charges that Iran is interfering with shipping in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, where 20% of the world's oil trade transits, to signal that it could wreak havoc with global oil supplies.

Zarif countered that the Strait of Hormuz is essential to Iran's economy and that his country has long provided security for shipping there.

"We have 1,500 miles of coast line with the Persian Gulf," Zarif said. "I mean, we control the Strait of Hormuz. These waters are our lifeline, so their security is of paramount importance for Iran."

In a reference to the US sending military vessels and trying to organize an international force to patrol the waters, Zarif said, "The United States is intervening in order to make these waters insecure for Iran. You cannot make these waters insecure for one country and secure it for others."


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