Associated Press

Feb 19, 7:24 AM EST

Iran's foreign minister is brushing aside new pressure from the United States, declaring that his country is "unmoved by threats" but responds well to respect



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MUNICH (AP) -- Iran's foreign minister brushed aside new pressure from the United States on Sunday, declaring that his country is "unmoved by threats" but responds well to respect.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers, under which Tehran agreed to curb its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions, but hasn't said what he plans to do about it.

His administration has said Iran was "on notice" over a recent ballistic missile test, and imposed new sanctions on more than two dozen Iranian companies and individuals.

"Iran doesn't respond well to threats," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of top diplomats and defense officials. "We don't respond well to coercion. We don't respond well to sanctions, but we respond very well to mutual respect. We respond very well to arrangements to reach mutually acceptable scenarios."

"Iran is unmoved by threats," he said.

"Everybody tested us for many years - all threats and coercions were imposed on us," Zarif added. He mocked "the concept of crippling sanctions," which he said didn't stop Iran acquiring thousands more centrifuges, used for enriching uranium, before talks with the U.S. on the nuclear agreement got underway.

Iran has always said it has no interest in nuclear weapons. Asked how long it would take to make one if it did decide it wanted such weapons, Zarif replied: "We are not going to produce nuclear weapons, period. So it will take forever for Iran to produce nuclear weapons."

Iran's regional rivals aired a laundry list of grievances about Tehran's behavior, pointing to the wars in Syria and Yemen among other issues.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, argued that the Iranians "stepped up the tempo of their mischief" during the negotiations on the nuclear deal and have continued to do so since then.

"I believe that Iran knows where the red lines are if the red lines are drawn clearly, and I believe that the world has to make it clear to the Iranians that there is certain behavior that will not be tolerated, and that there will be consequences," Jubeir told the conference. "And those consequences have to be in tune with the financial side."

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman insisted that the main challenges facing the region are "Iran, Iran and Iran."

Asked what approach he seeks against Iran, he replied: "It's a combination of economic pressure, very tough policy and of course to impose the resolutions of (the U.N.) Security Council, for example the ballistic missiles."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said that Iran has been working to try and build a nuclear weapon, and "if they say they haven't, they're lying."

He proposed new sanctions in Iran for various reasons, including what he said were violations of U.N. resolutions and destabilizing the Mideast.

"I think it is now time for the Congress to take Iran on directly," he said. "I think most Republicans are on board with that concept and we'll see where President Trump's at."

Jubeir said that he is "very optimistic about the Trump administration."

"We see a president who's pragmatic and practical, a businessman, problem-solver, a man who's not an ideologue," he said. "He wants America to play a role in the world. Our view is that when America disengages, it creates tremendous danger in the worlds, because it leaves vacuums."

"He believes in destroying Daesh (the Islamic State group); so do we," Jubeir added. "He believes in containing Iran; so do we. He believes in working with traditional allies; so do we."

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David Rising contributed to this report.

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