Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Iranian president: First lift sanctions, then talk

File Photo

TEHRAN: Iran’s president back-pedalled on possible talks with Donald Trump, saying the US president must first lift sanctions imposed on Tehran, otherwise a meeting between the two would be a mere photo op.

Hassan Rouhani’s change of heart came a day after Trump said Monday that there’s a “really good chance” the two could meet on their nuclear impasse after a surprise intervention by French President Emmanuel Macron during the G-7 summit to try to bring Washington and Tehran together after decades of conflict.

“Without the US’s withdrawal from sanctions, we will not witness any positive development,” Rouhani said in a televised speech on Tuesday, adding that Washington “holds the key” as to what happens next.

“If someone intends to make it as just a photo op with Rouhani, that is not possible,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, Rouhani expressed readiness to negotiate a way out of the crisis following America’s pullout from the nuclear deal.

“If I knew that going to a meeting and visiting a person would help my country’s development and resolve the problems of the people, I would not miss it,” he had said. “Even if the odds of success are not 90% but are 20% or 10%, we must move ahead with it. We should not miss opportunities.”

Rouhani also shielded his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, against criticism from hard-liners over his surprise visit Sunday to France’s Biarritz, where leaders of the Group of Seven rich democracies were meeting.

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