WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- The United States has decided not to impose sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif for now, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing sources familiar with the matter.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on June 24 had said Zarif would be blacklisted that week, an unusual public stance because the United States typically does not preview such decisions to keep its targets from moving assets out of U.S. jurisdiction.
The sources did not give specific reasons for the decision, which came after two months in which U.S.-Iranian tensions have soared.
"Cooler heads prevailed. We ... saw it as not necessarily helpful,” said Reuters quoted one source familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity, saying U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had opposed designating Zarif "for the time being.”
Zarif is expected to attend a ministerial meeting at the United Nations next week on sustainable development goals, which aim to tackle issues including conflict, hunger, gender equality and climate change by 2030.
To do so, the United States would have to grant him a visa, another sign Washington is holding off on sanctions for now.
Relations have deteriorated since U.S. President Donald Trump last year unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, and his early May decision to use U.S. sanctions to try to eliminate Iran’s oil exports entirely.
Trump’s move to cut off Iran’s oil sales led Tehran to scale back its obligations under the nuclear pact.
Asked why Zarif had yet to be sanctioned, a Treasury spokesman referred to a comment on Tuesday by a senior Trump administration official who told reporters: "We’re obviously exploring our various avenues for additional sanctions against Tehran. Obviously, Foreign Minister Zarif is a figure of key interest and we’ll update you ... as we have more information.”
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on Thursday Washington wants a diplomatic resolution and repeated Trump’s comment that he is willing to meet Iran "without preconditions.”
On July 4, the New York Times quoted Zarif as saying in an email that he did not own any property or have any bank accounts outside Iran. "So I have no personal problem with possible sanctions,” he said.
Trump has said he is open to negotiating with Iran. However, former U.S. officials said they see no signs his administration is interested in talks on terms other than Iran’s capitulation to U.S. demands.
The former officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a decision not to sanction Zarif could be a hint Washington wants to preserve the option of diplomacy even if it appears unlikely for now.
However, Zarif said the United States needs to stop "economic terrorism” against the Iranian nation if it really seeks talks with the Islamic Republic.
"We do not hold negotiations with those who have waged economic terrorism against our people. This should stop," he said Thursdya.