Iran's Foreign Minister Invited to Meet Trump in Washington, Report Says

Senator Rand Paul extended invitation to Minister Zarif last month, but Tehran did not approve meeting, New Yorker reports

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrives for a meeting at United Nations Headquarters, July 18, 2019.
REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Iran's foreign minister was invited to meet President Donald Trump last month amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, the New Yorker reported on Friday.

The proposition was made by Republican Senator Rand Paul during a July meeting with Zarif in New York, the New Yorker said, citing American and Iranian sources and "a well-informed diplomat." Paul began sending out feelers via intermediaries over the preceding weeks, with Trump's approval, according to the report.

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Paul and Doug Stafford, the senator's senior adviser, met Zarif at the residence of Iran's ambassador to the UN on July 15, the New Yorker reported. According to the report, an hour-long conversation ensued in which Zarif floated the idea of Iran's parliament codifying in law a fatwa issued by the country's supreme leader forbidding the production or use of nuclear weapons. Zarif also reportedly also suggested that Iran might bring forward ratification of a protocol allowing more intrusive international inspections of declared and undeclared nuclear sites in exchange for Trump going to Congress to lift sanctions.

Paul told Zarif that Trump had authorized him to invite the diplomat to meet at the White House as early as that week, the report added. The White House declined to comment to The New Yorker about the invitation.

Zarif told Iran's leaders about the overture, but they would not approve a meeting at this time, the report added.

Politico reported last month that Paul had received the go-ahead from Trump to try to repair Iranian-American relations, raising concerns among some administration officials about the impact of such a mission on the president's "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran.