Iran's Zarif Says U.S. Sanctioned Him Because He Declined Meeting With Trump

Tehran's top diplomat says he was offered to meet Trump at the White House, adding that there can be no negotiations 'as long as they keep a gun to Iran's head'

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at a press conference in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Aug. 5, 2019.
Ebrahim Noroozi,AP

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that he recently received an invitation to meet U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House but had refused the offer.

"I was told in New York that I would be sanctioned if I did not accept this invitation ... and I did not accept it," Zarif said at a press conference in Tehran.

The U.S. announced financial sanctions on Zarif last Wednesday, penalizing another country's top diplomat in a highly unusual step that could cut off a potential channel for talks.

>> Read more: Faced with U.S. threats, Iran warms up to Arab neighbors – even Riyadh | Analysis ■ On Iran, Trump is showing Israel out into the cold | Opinion ■ Between 'ending Iran' and 'no more endless wars': The unraveling of Trump's incoherent Iran strategy  

Republican Senator Rand Paul made the White House overture at the behest of President Donald Trump during meeting with Zarif in mid-July in New York, according to U.S. media reports.

Zarif said the invitation was declined because there can be no negotiations with the U.S. "as long as they keep a gun to Iran's head."

Zarif said Iran would only consider holding talks with the Trump administration if it eased the economic sanctions that were reimposed after Washington withdrew from the landmark nuclear accord.

But Zarif said Iran will not give up on it diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. "We all come and go, but diplomacy will always be there," he said, suggesting that the political situation could change in Washington.

The U.S. has repeatedly accused Iran of military aggression in the region. Tensions flared anew in recent weeks over Iran's seizure of foreign tankers passing through the Gulf.