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Iran’s leader: US committing ‘merciless economic terrorism’

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Iran's leader: US committing 'merciless economic terrorism'

Iran's President accused the United States of "ruthless economic terrorism" on Wednesday, using his UN speech to emphasize that security in the Persian Gulf can only be guaranteed when his country's security is good – and only with involvement. from Iran's neighbors.

Hassan Rouhani told the UN General Assembly that Iran would not negotiate on its nuclear program as long as sanctions remained in force.

"Our response to any negotiation under sanctions is negative," he said. He said Iran "has resisted the most ruthless economic terrorism" of a country that is engaging in "international piracy".

Iranian state television broadcast Rouhani's speech live nationwide with 80 million people.

He spoke as his country's nuclear deal with world powers unfolded under pressure from the Trump administration. Iran has further expanded its nuclear enrichment program following President Donald Trump's decision last year to withdraw from the deal and reimpose sanctions on Tehran for its ability to export oil.

Rouhani's highly anticipated remarks at the UN came a day after Trump described Iran as "one of the biggest threats" to the planet.

The growing crisis has raised concerns that direct conflict with Iran at the center could break out in the region – a scenario that all parties, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, have emphasized that they want to avoid.

The United States has sent military reinforcements and increased its security presence in the Middle East in recent months amid growing tensions with Iran.

Rouhani's behavior during the speech was measured, but the words he uttered were threatening. "Our region is on the brink of collapse because a single mistake can fuel a big fire," he said.

The region will be safe when US troops withdraw, he said.

Rouhani has spent a lot of time appealing to Iran's neighbors, saying that their fates are intertwined and that they should consider themselves rather than pinning their hopes on US involvement.

"Security will not be provided with US weapons and interventions," he said. "Security cannot be bought or provided by foreign governments."

Rouhani's remarks come as the United States and its allies accuse Iran of being behind a major drone and missile attack on Saudi Arabia's major oil sites earlier this month. Iran has denied any involvement and says any attacks by the US or Saudi Arabia will lead to "total war".

The September 14 attack followed months of lower-level attacks on oil tankers and the shooting down of a US surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. The US and its regional allies blame these attacks on Iran, which it also denies.

Trump, speaking at the UN on Tuesday, left open the possibility of diplomatic involvement with Iran. It was that very day that Rouhani insisted that he would only consider meeting after sanctions against his country were lifted.

But in closing his speech at the General Assembly, Rouhani suggested that there was still room for diplomacy.

"This is the message of the Iranian nation: let's invest in the hope of a better future instead of war and violence," he said. "Let's go back to justice, peace, law, compromise and promise and finally to the negotiating table."

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Aya Batrawy covers the Persian Gulf for the Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter at @ayaelb. Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran contributed to this report.

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