Iran on Saturday criticized the US for what it called an “inhumane” decision to limit Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif’s movement on his visit to attend the UN summit in New York, rules that meant he could not visit Iranian Ambassador to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi in a hospital in the city where he was undergoing cancer treatment.
In July, the US restricted Zarif’s movement to just six blocks in New York.
The US Department of State said that it would allow the hospital visit request only if Iran released one of several US citizens it has “wrongfully detained.”
The official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Iranian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi as saying that the US had taken humanitarian issues “hostage” for political causes.
Late on Saturday, Zarif tweeted that he had communicated with Ravanchi by video call.
“Thanks to technology, I was able to see and talk to my friend of 40 years and our UN ambassador Ravanchi, who is in hospital here in New York only a few blocks away,” he said.
The spat comes amid heightened tension between Tehran and Washington following US President Donald Trump’s decision last year to pull out of a nuclear deal with Iran. The US has imposed sanctions that have kept Iran from selling its oil abroad and have crippled its economy. Iran has since begun breaking terms of the deal.
The tensions have included seizures of oil tankers at sea. On Friday, Iran released a British-flagged oil tanker it had seized in July as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20 percent of all oil passes.
The ship, the Stena Impero, set sail from Iran on Friday morning, arriving at an anchorage outside Dubai’s Port Rashid in the United Arab Emirates just before midnight. It docked on Saturday afternoon.
Erik Hanell, president and CEO of Swedish-based Stena Bulk, which owns the tanker, said that “considering the circumstances of the past 10 weeks, the vessel is in good condition,” which he said was testament to the professionalism of the crew.
The crew would go on shore leave while the Stena Impero, with a new crew onboard, would remain in Dubai for checks before re-entering service, Hanell said in an e-mailed statement.
The Stena Impero’s seizure came after authorities in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, seized an Iranian supertanker on suspicion it was breaking EU sanctions by taking the oil to Syria. Gibraltar later released the tanker after it said Iran promised the ship would not go to Syria.
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