Iran's Zarif invited to meet Trump last month: report
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was reportedly invited to the White House to hold talks with US President Donald Trump, weeks before US sanctions were imposed on the top diplomat.
The invitation was made by Republican Senator Rand Paul at a meeting in New York on July 15 with Trump's blessing, The New Yorker reported on Friday.
An intermediary had reportedly reached out to Iranian officials weeks before Zarif's visit on behalf of the US senator.
Zarif told Paul that he could not agree to meet Trump without first consulting Tehran, and was worried the meeting could be little more than a photo opportunity, sources told the US magazine.
The two officials discussed Iran's nuclear programme and the escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf following a series of attacks on oil tankers, which Washington has blamed on Tehran.
American and Iranian officials have not commented on the report.
The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Zarif, effectively slamming the door on the country's top diplomat.
The sanctions froze any of Zarif's assets in the United States or controlled by US entities, the government announced, saying it also will seek to curtail the diplomat's international travel.
Zarif shot back, tweeting that Washington was trying to silence Iran on the international stage.
"The US' reason for designating me is that I am Iran's 'primary spokesperson around the world' Is the truth really that painful?" he tweeted.
Critics questioned the legal or diplomatic rationale for targeting Zarif, saying that sanctions will all but end the possibility of dialogue.
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