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Trump rejected Iran’s conditions for meeting Rouhani: Zarif

Iranian President Hasan Rohani waits for the bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarter on September 24, 2019, in New York. (AFP photo)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says it was US President Donald Trump who wasted his chances for a meeting with Iranian officials on the sidelines of a United Nations gathering in New York by rejecting Tehran’s main conditions for such a meeting.

Zarif said on Saturday that Trump was merely trying to hold a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the latter’s stay in New York this week, adding that the US president was unwilling to accept that sanctions imposed by his government on Tehran should be lifted as a main precondition for talks with Iran.

He said, however, that a direct meeting between Trump and Rouhani had never been on agenda and Iran basically wanted a meeting between heads of states signatory to a 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear activity which has suffered since Trump’s administration withdrew from the deal in May 2018.

“Mr Trump did not say that this (lifting of sanctions) would be done after the meeting, but he was more inclined to have the meeting done and said there is also the possibility that sanctions would be lifted after the meeting,” Zarif told the Persian service of the IRIB News as he was preparing to leave New York for Tehran.

The comments come after more than a month of speculations about a potential détente between Iran and the US amid growing tensions between the two countries.

French President Emmanuel Macron had hinted during a summit of G7 industrial nations in his country last month that a meeting between Rouhani and Trump would be possible when the two attend the UN General Assembly in New York.

Iran had indicated that talks would be possible only if Washington returns to the Iran nuclear deal while insisting that Washington should remove all sanctions imposed on the country since November last year.

Zarif said in his Saturday interview that Iran would never commit to a “theatrical meeting with a president that has not observed his obligations”.

“If the Americans want to have the honor of being the conversation partner of the Islamic Republic, they must return to their commitments and stop the sanctions,” he said.

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