Washington: US President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order that would impose fresh sanctions on Iran, amid increased tensions between the long-time foes. The new sanctions will deny the Iranian Supreme Leader and other officials access to financial instruments within US jurisdiction.
Trump initially told reporters the sanctions, which will target Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his office, were in response to Tehran's downing of a US drone last week. Tehran has said the drone was flying in its airspace, which Washington has denied. He signed the order in presence of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Later, Trump said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone.
An official said the US will also add Iran Finance Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the sanctions list "later this week".
The Treasury said the US has also added eight Iran Guards commanders to the sanctions blacklist.
Trump called off a planned retaliatory military strike on Friday, saying the response would not have been "proportionate".
"We do not seek conflict with Iran or any other country," Trump said in a brief interaction with reporters at his Oval Office here. "I can only tell you we cannot ever let Iran have a nuclear weapon."
"I think a lot of restraint has been shown by us but that doesn't mean we're going to show it in the future," Trump said. "We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran."
When asked if his executive order was in response to the Iranian attack on US drone, Trump replied, "You could probably add that into this," adding, "This was something that was going to happen anyway."
"I know many Iranians living in New York, and they're fantastic people," Trump said in response to a question.
The US has also blamed Iran for attacks earlier this month on two oil tankers at the entrance of the Gulf of Oman. Iran, in turn, has denied that it is to blame.
Washington has repeatedly imposed sanctions on Tehran since last year, when the United States withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for easing of sanctions. Trump's administration has said the deal struck under his predecessor President Barack Obama did not do enough.
Trump has said he would be open to talks with Iranian leaders, but Tehran has rejected such an offer unless Washington drops the sanctions.