At UN, Iran Says It Will Never Hold Talks With U.S. Under Pressure

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President of Iran Hassan Rohani addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters on September 25, 2019 in New York City.
President of Iran Hassan Rohani addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters on September 25, 2019 in New York City.Credit: AFP

Iran will never hold talks with the United States under pressure, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, but added that lifting all the sanctions Washington imposed on Tehran and respecting a UN Security Council resolution could pave the way for talks.

"Our response to talks under pressure is NO," said Rouhani, but warned that Iran might exit a 2015 nuclear deal if the European powers failed to salvage the deal.

"We are committed to the nuclear deal ... but Iran's patience has a limit," said the pragmatic president, who was architect of the deal with six powers.

Iran has criticized the European parties to the deal for their failure to protect Iran's interests by shielding them from U.S. penalties which has been reimposed and tightened since last year when Washington exited the pact.

In retaliation, Iran has gradually reduced its commitments to the agreement.

The confrontation between Tehran and Washington has ratcheted up since last year, when Trump withdrew from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with major powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled its economy.

In his UN speech on Tuesday, Trump accused Iranian leaders of "bloodlust" and called on other nations to join in applying pressure on Iran after September 14 attacks on Saudi oil facilities that Washington blames on Tehran despite its denials.

However, Trump also said there was a path to peace and Rohani, the nuclear pact's architect, has left the door open to diplomacy, saying that if sanctions were lifted, Washington could join nuclear talks between Tehran and other powers.

Despite the French and British leaders urging Rohani to meet Trump, an Iranian official told Reuters there was no chance that the U.S. and Iranian presidents would meet while they are both in New York for this week's annual gathering of world leaders.

An Iranian official was categorical in playing down the idea of Trump and Rohani meeting this week and called for the United States to return to the nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

"The chances of a meeting are zero. They know what to do. They should return to the JCPOA, lift sanctions and end this unfair maximum pressure on Iran. Then of course they can join the talks under the deal," the Iranian official told Reuters.

Since abandoning the nuclear deal last year, Trump in May dramatically tightened sanctions on Iran in an effort to reduce its oil exports - its main source of foreign exchange and government revenues - to zero.

While it originally respected the deal despite Trump's withdrawal, Iran has gradually reduced its compliance and has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, through which an estimated one-fifth of the world's oil passes.

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