TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reserved his sharpest scorn for US President Donald Trump for a weekend tweet about a nonexistent Iranian missile launch.
"We need to check our facts before we make statements," Zarif said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.
"It worries me that people play with facts and produce alternative facts,” he added.
Trump on Saturday tweeted, "Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel," the president wrote. "They are also working with North Korea. Not much of an agreement we have!"
Later it turned out there was no Iranian ballistic missile launch, according to Zarif and US officials.
The Iranian minister also declared Trump’s newly extended travel ban restrictions on Iran to be "an insult to the entire Iranian nation."
The restrictions, which go into effect Oct. 18, cover citizens of Iran, Chad, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — and some Venezuelan government officials and their families. Iranians were also targeted in Trump's earlier bans.
"It is unfortunate that for irrelevant political reasons the president of the United States decides to alienate … and antagonize an entire nation who have not harmed anybody," Zarif said.
"I believe that we need to respond to the measures that were taken by the United States in order to preserve the dignity of our citizens," he said, "but how we respond is a decision that we will make."
Elsewhere in the interview, the top Iranian diplomat said renegotiating the 2015 nuclear between Tehran and world powers “would open a Pandora's box”.
"We dealt with all these issues. It took us many years. It took us 10 years of posturing on all sides and two years of serious negotiations to reach this deal. I don't expect that a new round will produce any better results. In fact, a new round will get us in a quagmire that nobody will be able to get out of,” he added.
Zarif said that if the US withdraws "then we're not bound by that agreement and we will then decide how we want to deal with it."
"It does not mean that Iran wants to pursue a nuclear weapons option," he said. "But what is important is if the deal is broken, then Iran has many options, one of which would be to have an unlimited yet peaceful nuclear energy program."
Zarif’s comments came less than three weeks before Trump has to decide whether to “certify” Iran’s compliance with the nuclear accord, a measure required under US law every 90 days. While Trump twice previously signed off on a statement of compliance, he’s signaled he won’t do so when required to issue his decision on October 15.
Referring to an independence vote held in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region on September 25, Zarif said that Iran was opposed to the vote "like every other nation in the world."
He called the Kurds "our eternal friends," noting that Iran came to their assistance when they were fighting Daesh extremists in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region.
"We believe that this referendum is dangerous for stability in the region and doesn't serve the interest of our Iraqi Kurdish friends."
He also pointed to the recent developments in the region and said the Islamic Republic has fought against "extremists and terrorists" starting in Afghanistan in the 1990s, in Iraq since 2003 and in Erbil. In Syria, he said, "the government and resistance forces have been able to achieve military victory over the terrorists … to a really important extent."
"If we need to go to the assistance of any other government in the region in order for them to fight extremists and terrorists, we are ready," Zarif said. "This is an open declaration that Iran is always on the side of those who fight extremism and terrorism."