Iran president says he is open to changing nuclear deal if Trump lifts sanctions, as Johnson pressures over jailed citizens

World leaders urge Hassan Rouhani to meet with US president during UN general assembly

Peter Stubley
Wednesday 25 September 2019 00:26 BST
Donald Trump and Hassan Rouhani suggest they could meet to resolve US-Iran crisis

Hassan Rouhani has said he is only willing to discuss changes to the nuclear deal if the US lifts sanctions on his country, despite pressure from fellow world leaders to restart talks.

The Iranian president told reporters at the UN General Assembly in New York that he would not even consider meeting Donald Trump while the restrictions remained in place.

He spoke out shortly before the US president made his speech accusing Iran of “bloodlust”, following the recent drone attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.

However, Mr Trump also appeared to raise the possibility of a diplomatic breakthrough with the Islamic republic, saying “the United States has never believed in permanent enemies”.

Mr Rouhani, who claimed that Yemeni rebels were behind the drone attacks and not Iran, said he had seen “no tangible evidence” of any changes in the US stance towards his country.

“No one knows what America will do tomorrow,” he added. The Iranian president accused Mr Trump of pulling out the 2015 deal negotiated by Barack Obama simply because it does not carry “his brand”.

Asked if he would negotiate a new nuclear deal with the Trump administration, he said said he was open to discuss “small changes, additions or amendments” if the United States lifted sanctions imposed by the US since 2018.

During the UN general assembly in New York on Tuesday, Mr Rouhani met with Boris Johnson, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Macron spoke to the Iranian president shortly after meeting with Mr Trump in an attempt to smooth the path for talks between the US and Iran.

The French president told Mr Rouhani that it would be a “lost opportunity” if he did not meet with the US president. ”Because he will not come back in a few months,” added Mr Macron. “And President Trump will not go to Tehran so they have to meet now.”

Imran Khan, prime minister of Pakistan, also revealed that Mr Trump had asked to help defuse tensions with Iran. ”I can’t say anything right now more than this except that we’re trying and mediating,” he told reporters.

Boris Johnson also backed talks between the US and Iran, telling Mr Rouhani: “You need to be on the side of the swimming pool and jump at the same time.”

The detention of dual nationals by Iran, including the British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, was also raised by the prime minister during the meeting.

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Mr Johnson invited Mr Rouhani to London “where we can discuss things more”, before adding: “We retain serious concerns about the detention of dual nationals in Tehran and we are looking forward to making progress on that.”

The talks involving the UK, Germany, France came only 24 hours after the three European countries issued a statement blaming Iran for the 14 September attack on Saudi oil facilities.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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