Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has slammed the “unprecedented” US pressure on Tehran and urged unity among the country’s political factions to overcome conditions which he said may be harder than those during the 1980s.
Rouhani’s comments on Saturday came amid rising tensions with Washington which last week deployed warships and warplanes to the Gulf. He said the renewed US sanctions had led to worse economic conditions than during the country’s 1980-88 war with neighbouring Iraq.
“Today, it cannot be said whether conditions are better or worse than the (1980-88) war period, but during the war we did not have a problem with our banks, oil sales or imports and exports and there were only sanctions on arms purchases,” Rouhani said, according to the state news agency IRNA.
The President called for political unity to face down sanctions.
“The pressures by enemies is a war unprecedented in the history of our revolution… but I do not despair and have great hope for the future and believe that we can move past these difficult conditions provided that we are united.”
The US-Iran escalation has put into question the future of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran signed with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.
US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the nuclear agreement in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions. Iran has indicated it may resume nuclear activities if the other partners go along with American sanctions.
European powers say they remained committed to the deal but that they “reject any ultimatums” from Tehran to prevent its collapse.
Last week, Trump urged Iran’s leaders to talk to him about giving up their nuclear programme and said he could not rule out a military confrontation. He made the offer while increasing economic and military pressure on Tehran, moving to cut off all Iranian oil exports in May while beefing up the US Navy and Air Force presence in the Gulf.
Washington also approved a new deployment of Patriot missiles to the Middle East, a US official said.
The Trump administration hopes to compel Iran to negotiate a “new deal” that would cover not only its nuclear activities, but also its ballistic missile programme, reports say.
The International Monetary Fund has said it expects the Iranian economy to shrink by 6 per cent in 2019.