President Donald Trump on Monday said that he is imposing economic sanctions on Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and his ministry officials, a provocative action aimed at increasing pressure on the Islamic Republic in retaliation for what the United States says are recent aggressive acts by Tehran.
A statement issued by the Office of the President's Press Secretary, said, "President Trump has signed an Executive Order today imposing sanctions on the Supreme Leader of Iran and the Office of the Supreme Leader of Iran."
"Further, the order allows the Secretary of the Treasury to impose sanctions on officials appointed to their position by the Supreme Leader," the statement read.
"These sanctions will deny Iran's leadership access to financial resources, blocking them from using the United States financial system or accessing any assets in the United States," it said.
"Anybody who conducts significant transactions with these sanctioned individuals may be exposed to sanctions themselves," it added.
The sanctions came amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran that has been further triggered by concerns that the Islamic Republic is moving toward amassing more nuclear fuel.
"We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran," The New York Times quoted Trump as saying as he sat at his desk in the Oval Office preparing to sign an executive order. "Never can Iran have a nuclear weapon," he added.
"These sanctions build on President Trump's efforts to put financial pressure on and raise costs for the Iranian regime," the statement read.
"The President has implemented tough sanctions against Iran and will continue to impose maximum pressure until the regime abandons its malign behaviour. Iran has engaged in a series of provocative actions in recent weeks, leading up to the attack on a United States drone operating over international waters. It recently announced that it will be increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium in the coming days. Iran attacked two commercial vessels and used proxy forces to attack civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia," it said.
"No amount of economic sanctions entitles the regime to attack innocent civilians, disrupt global commerce, or engage in nuclear blackmail," the statement added.
The action came as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met leaders in Saudi Arabia on a last-minute trip on Monday, and insisted that Iran must curb its regional military activity and end support for terrorist outfits operating in the Middle East.
Washington further stressed that Trump has been clear that "he is open to the possibility of future talks with Iran, and wants to ensure they are never allowed to gain nuclear weapons."
Last week, Iran had shot down an unmanned US surveillance drone with a surface-to-air missile, prompting Trump to order a retaliatory strike against Iran. However, the US president had later changed his decision since it could have caused civilian casualties. (ANI)