Iran indifferent to Trump envoy’s quitting amid embargo push

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s foreign ministry on Friday expressed indifference to the change in the Trump administration’s top envoy for Iran, alleging that the new U.S. official in the post would be no different from his predecessor.

The envoy, Brian Hook announced his departure on Thursday, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. would call for a U.N. Security Council vote next week on a resolution to indefinitely extend the arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in October.

That resolution is expected to fail amid widespread international opposition, setting the stage for a showdown between the U.S. and the other Security Council members over the reimposition of all international sanctions on Iran.

Hook, who gave no reason for his stepping down, is to be replaced by Elliott Abrams, a noted hawk on numerous policy issues who is the U.S. special envoy for Venezuela, a close Iran ally.

Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted the foreign ministry’s spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, as saying Friday that “there is no difference between Brian Hook and Elliott Abrams.”

“Where the U.S. policy toward Iran is concerned, American officials have bitten off more than they can chew,” Mousavi said.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, also welcomed Hook’s departure. Iranian officials routinely claim President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran has failed.

Since withdrawing the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal two years ago, Trump has steadily ratcheted up pressure on Iran by imposing penalties on countries importing Iranian oil, declaring its Revolutionary Guard a “foreign terrorist organization” and killing a top commander of the paramilitary organization this year in a missile strike in Iraq.

Sanctions on Iranian crude exports, the main source of foreign revenue, have sent Iran’s economy into free fall.

On Friday, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, vice-president in charge of the budget and planning, said that Iran has in recent months met only 6% of its goal for oil revenue. He did not give further details.

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