Iran Says No Trump-Rohani Meeting at UN General Assembly

Announcement comes a day after Trump said the U.S. is 'locked and loaded' for a potential response to the attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities, after a senior official in his administration said Iran was to blame

U.S. President Donald Trump during a cabinet meeting on July 18, 2018, at the White House in Washington, DC, and President Hassan Rohani on Iranian TV in Tehran, May 2, 2018.
AFP

Iran said on Monday there would be no meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump at the United Nations, Iranian state television reported, after the White House on Sunday left open the possibility of a potential meeting.

"Neither is such an event (Trump-Rouhani meeting in New York) on our agenda, nor will it happen. Such a meeting will not take place," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in remarks carried by state TV. 

Mousavi rejected as "nonsense" remarks by Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham that it was time for the United States "to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries" after the attacks on Saudi oil installations on Saturday that were claimed by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis.

>> Washington may be ready for talks post-Bolton, but Iran is still hesitant | Analysis ■ Attack on Saudi oil infrastructure 'serious escalation' in proxy war with Iran | Explained

The Houthis said on Monday that Saudi Aramco's oil processing plants were still a target and could be attacked at "any moment", warning foreigners to leave the area.

The attacks on Aramco plants in Abqaiq and Khurais in the kingdom's eastern region were carried out by drones with normal and jet engines, Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said in a tweet.

Sarea said Saudi Arabia should stop its "aggression and blockade on Yemen".

Trump said on Sunday that the United States was "locked and loaded" for a potential response to the attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities, after a senior official in his administration said Iran was to blame.

"There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!" Trump said on Twitter.

He said he had also authorized the use of the U.S. emergency oil stockpile to ensure stable supplies after the attack, which shut 5 percent of world production.

Iran earlier condemned as "unacceptable" U.S. accusations it was behind an attack on Saudi oil plants.

"Stopping all sanctions is an indispensable precondition for constructive diplomacy. We hold meetings when we are sure that our people's problems can be solved," government spokesman Ali Rabiei said, according to the semi-official news agency Tasnim.

"Sanctions must be lifted, and the United States must respect the Iranian nation," Rabiei said.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Sunday the previous day's attacks "did not help" prospects for a meeting between the two leaders during the United Nations General Assembly this month, but she left open the possibility a meeting could take place.

Oil prices surged more than 15 percent at the open on Sunday on worries over global supply and soaring tensions in the Middle East. State oil giant Saudi Aramco said the attack on Saturday had cut output by 5.7 million barrels per day.

Earlier in the day, a senior U.S. official told reporters that evidence from the attack, which hit the world's biggest oil-processing facility, indicated Iran was behind it, instead of the Yemeni Houthi group that had claimed responsibility.

Mousavi dismissed the U.S. allegation it was responsible as "pointless". A senior Revolutionary Guards commander warned that the Islamic Republic was ready for "full-fledged" war.

In recent weeks, the U.S. administration has expressed willingness to meet with the Iranian leaders, to the dismay of the Israeli government.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump said he could meet with Rohani and that he had no problem with such an encounter, just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the international community to exert "maximum pressure" on Iran.

Last Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Trump is willing to meet his Iranian counterpart “with no preconditions.”

Pompeo made the comment in reply to a question on whether Trump could meet Rohani before the end of the month, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Pompeo replied positively to the question.

Pompeo spoke in a press conference with Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, during which new American sanctions were announced against Iran, Hamas, Al-Qaida and Hezbollah.

The press conference was also supposed to include National Security Adviser John Bolton, but he was fired by Trump via Twitter shortly before it took place. Pompeo backed Trump’s decision to fire Bolton, saying that the president has the right to choose his own staff.

Bolton was considered the most hawkish among Trump's senior advisers, especially regarding Iran.