USA exempts India-backed port in Iran from sanctions

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Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to YouTube on Tuesday to dismiss USA sanctions and Washington's demands of change from Tehran as "absurd, unlawful and fundamentally flawed".

However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that eight countries - India, China, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey - were temporarily allowed to continue buying Iranian oil as they showed "significant reduction" in oil purchase from the Persian Gulf country. "These activities are vital for the ongoing support of Afghanistan's growth and humanitarian relief", said the US State Department Spokesperson.

Iran has plans to link the port by railway to Zahedan on the Pakistani border up to Mashhad in the northeast.

India has invested $500 million (approximately Rs 3,600 crore at current exchange rate) in the Chabahar project, which will connect the country with Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan.

A first round of American sanctions took effect in August, targeting Iran's access to the USA dollar, metals trading, coal, industrial software, and auto sector.

The port in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich nations southern coast is easily accessible from India's western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan's Gwadar Port, which is being developed with Chinese investment and is located at distance of around 80 kms from Chabahar. It states that India has a major role in bringing peace and development in Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump's "South Asia strategy underscores our ongoing support of Afghanistan's economic growth and development as well as our close partnership with India", a State Department spokesman said on November 6.

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And the United States, the official said, seeks to "build on our close relationships with both countries as we execute a policy of maximum pressure to change the Iranian regime's destabilising policies in the region and beyond".

India has poured $2 billion into Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led overthrow of the Taliban regime, which was also opposed by Iran.

Trump's decision has been opposed by European powers as well as other nations including India, which has largely warm relations with Iran.

Chabahar and INSTC are important strategic projects for India and Afghanistan.

"This exception relates to reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan".

"We have weathered hard times in the face of 40 years of American hostility relying exclusively on our own resources, and today we and our partners across the globe will ensure that our people are least affected by this indiscriminate assault", he said.

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