Iran wants US talks, but re­spect first

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Kim Hjelm­gaard

ANTALYA, Turkey – As Ira­ni­ans braced for the full restora­tion of eco­nomic sanc­tions im­posed Mon­day by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, their gov­ern­ment sig­naled it would be open to talk­ing to the United States about a new nu­clear arms ac­cord if Wash­ing­ton changes its ap­proach to dis­cussing the agree­ment it aban­doned this year.

For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif, Iran’s top diplo­mat, told USA TO­DAY in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view over the week­end that his gov­ern­ment would con­sider diplo­macy if there were “foun­da­tions for a fruit­ful di­a­logue” on the nu­clear re­duc­tion deal. In May, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the pact made with world pow­ers and Iran. Other sig­na­to­ries stayed in.

“Mu­tual trust is not a re­quire­ment to start ne­go­ti­a­tions – mu­tual re­spect

is a re­quire­ment,” Zarif said in a widerang­ing, 45-minute in­ter­view.

Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani said on state TV in Au­gust that he would be will­ing to meet with Trump over the col­laps­ing deal, but Rouhani ques­tioned Trump’s “sin­cer­ity” in any pos­si­ble talks. U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton dis­missed Rouhani’s com­ments as pro­pa­ganda. The United States and Iran effec­tively broke off all diplo­matic con­tact when Trump de­cided to exit the agree­ment.

The Trump “ad­min­is­tra­tion does not be­lieve in diplo­macy. It be­lieves in im­po­si­tion,” Zarif said in the in­ter­view be­fore the White House reim­posed crush­ing eco­nomic sanc­tions on Iran’s en­ergy and bank­ing sec­tors Mon­day.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion said the sanc­tions, lifted un­der the agree­ment Iran signed with the United States, the United King­dom, France, China, Rus­sia and Ger­many when Barack Obama was pres­i­dent, are aimed at tak­ing stronger steps to curb Tehran’s nu­clear pro­gram, its mis­sile ac­tiv­ity and the bil­lions of dol­lars it spends fund­ing ter­ror­ism and sow­ing dis­cord across the Mid­dle East.

The White House did not re­spond to a re­quest to ad­dress Zarif’s re­marks. The State Depart­ment de­clined to com­ment. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said Mon­day: “The Ira­nian regime has a choice. It can ei­ther do a 180-de­gree turn from its out­law course of ac­tion and act like a nor­mal coun­try, or it can see its econ­omy crum­ble. We hope a new agree­ment with Iran is pos­si­ble.”

Rouhani said Mon­day that his na­tion faces a “war sit­u­a­tion” and vowed that Iran “will sell” its oil. Iran’s mil­i­tary an­nounced it will hold de­fense drills to prove its ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

“Mu­tual re­spect starts with re­spect­ing your­self, with re­spect­ing your sig­na­ture, re­spect­ing your own word,” Zarif said, re­fer­ring to var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional agree­ments Trump has aban­doned or rene­go­ti­ated.

Iran’s for­eign min­is­ter spoke to USA TO­DAY in Antalya, a re­sort town on Turkey’s south­west­ern Mediter­ranean coast.

For U.S.-Ira­nian talks, “it doesn’t have to be a differ­ent ad­min­is­tra­tion, but it does re­quire a differ­ent ap­proach,” Zarif said.

Es­fand­yar Bat­manghe­lidj, the founder of Bourse & Bazaar, a me­dia firm that sup­ports busi­ness diplo­macy be­tween Europe and Iran, said: “Zarif doesn’t say things un­less he wants to sig­nal where Iran’s think­ing is . ... What’s sig­nificant is he is say­ing this on the eve of the sanc­tions be­ing reap­plied . ... Iran can’t be seen to be begging the U.S. to come back into the deal, but it is clear there is an un­der­cur­rent in the diplo­macy, which is that Iran is open to this if the U.S. shows it­self to be rea­son­able about re­spect­ing” the nu­clear deal.

NEALE HAYNES FOR USA TO­DAY

Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif, Iran’s min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs, speaks with USA TO­DAY in Antalya, Turkey.

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