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Iran’s Zarif In New Delhi After India Halts Iranian Oil Imports

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj (right) poses for photos with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif prior to a meeting in New Delhi on May 14.
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj (right) poses for photos with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif prior to a meeting in New Delhi on May 14.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has held talks with his Indian counterpart in New Delhi after India halted imports of Iranian oil in the wake of renewed U.S. sanctions.

Zarif discussed issues of mutual interest with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj on May 14, including the situation in Afghanistan, India's Foreign Ministry said, without providing any details.

The Iranian minister earlier said he planned to talk about the "most recent developments in the region as well as our bilateral relations."

"India is one of our most important partners, economic, political, and regional," Zarif said.

The United States reimposed strict sanctions on Iran and vowed to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero after President Donald Trump a year ago withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

China and India -- Iran's top oil clients -- have stopped purchases from Iran since the U.S. administration withdrew waivers to the two countries and six other nations that had allowed them to import some Iranian crude without being exposed to punitive action under the U.S. sanctions.

'Clear Indications' Of Threats

Amid growing tensions between Tehran and Washington, the United States last week announced the deployment of an aircraft carrier battle group and a bomber task force to the Persian Gulf to counter what U.S. officials called "clear indications" of threats from Iran to U.S. interests or its allies in the region.

Iran dismissed the allegations, and announced it was suspending some of its commitments under the nuclear agreement that Tehran had agreed to in exchange for sanctions relief.

Zarif said the United States "has been escalating the situation unnecessarily," adding: "We do not seek escalation but we have always defended ourselves."

Britain, France, and Germany -- the Western European parties to the nuclear accord -- have been trying to salvage the agreement. The accord is also backed by its other signatories -- Russia and China.

Tehran says that EU countries should uphold their obligations under the nuclear deal and normalize economic ties despite the threat of U.S. sanctions.

The U.S. sanctions have more than halved Iran's oil exports to 1 million barrels per day (or less, from a peak of 2.8 million barrels per day last year, according to Reuters.

The news agency quoted European diplomatic sources as saying on May 13 that Iran was insisting on exporting at least 1.5 million barrels per day as a condition for staying in the nuclear accord.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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