Iran down­plays meet­ing with US

Rouhani calls for lift­ing of sanc­tions as ‘first step’

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani Tues­day told the US to “take the first step” by lift­ing all sanc­tions against Iran, damp­en­ing down the like­li­hood of meet­ing US coun­ter­part Don­ald Trump.

Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif said the prospects for such a meet­ing were “unimag­in­able” with­out Washington re­join­ing the nuclear deal with Tehran, two days af­ter he made a sur­prise trip to Biarritz for talks on the side­lines of the G7 sum­mit.

Trump had said on Mon­day he was ready to meet with the Ira­nian pres­i­dent within weeks, in a po­ten­tial break­through reached dur­ing the sum­mit in the French sea­side re­sort.

Iran’s econ­omy has been bat­tered by US sanc­tions im­posed since Trump in May last year uni­lat­er­ally with­drew from a land­mark 2015 nuclear deal between the Is­lamic repub­lic and world pow­ers.

“The step is to re­treat from sanc­tions. You must re­treat from all illegal, un­just and wrong sanc­tions against the na­tion of Iran,” Rouhani said in a speech aired live on state tele­vi­sion.

“The key for pos­i­tive change is in the hands of Washington,” he said, be­cause Iran had al­ready ruled out ever do­ing what wor­ries the US the most – build­ing an atomic bomb.

“If hon­estly this is your only con­cern, this con­cern has al­ready been re­moved” through a fatwa is­sued by supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, said Rouhani.

“We don’t [in­tend to] make an atomic bomb... our mil­i­tary doc­trine is based on con­ven­tional arms,” said the Ira­nian pres­i­dent.

Khamenei is­sued a fatwa against nuclear weapons in 2003 and has re­it­er­ated it sev­eral times since.

“So take the first step. With­out this step, this lock will not be un­locked,” Rouhani said at an event in Tehran.

In Biarritz, French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron had said the “con­di­tions for a meet­ing” between Trump and Rouhani “in the next few weeks” had been cre­ated through in­ten­sive diplo­macy and con­sul­ta­tions.

Trump, speaking at the fi­nal news con­fer­ence of the G7 sum­mit, said he “would cer­tainly agree to that.”

He added that the time­line pro­posed by Macron was re­al­is­tic.

Trump was equally con­fi­dent that Rouhani would be in fa­vor.

“I think he’s go­ing to want to meet. I think Iran wants to get this sit­u­a­tion straight­ened out,” he added.

But Zarif said on Tues­day that he had made it known dur­ing the G7 sum­mit that a meet­ing between Rouhani and Trump would be highly im­prob­a­ble even if the US re­turned to the nuclear deal.

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