Trump Says Would Meet Iranian Leaders 'Anytime With No Preconditions'

'I believe in meetings. I would meet with Iran if they wanted to meet'

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a joint press conference with Italy's prime minister in the East Room of the White House, Washington, July 30, 2018.
AFP

WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that he would agree to meet with Iran's leaders "anytime" and "with no preconditions."

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The statement came just days after Trump expressed a harsh and threatening tone toward Iran on his Twitter account. However, in a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the White House on Monday, Trump said he would agree to meet with the Islamic Republic's leaders – assuming they were ready for such a meeting to take place.

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"I'll meet with anybody," Trump said. "I believe in meetings. I would meet with Iran if they wanted to meet." Trump added, however, that "I don't know if they're ready." He made it clear that he would not present any preconditions for such a meeting to take place. "No preconditions," he stated, "they want to meet? I'll meet."

Trump went on to explain that "I don't do that from strength or weakness, but I just think it's an appropriate thing to do." He added that he believes the Iranians will, at some point, express interest in meeting the United States to discuss an alternative to the nuclear deal he withdrew from in May. He called the previous agreement a "waste of paper" but said he would like to negotiate a "meaningful" agreement with Iran.

Hours before Trump's statement, Tehran had ruled out talks with Washington. 

"With current America and these policies, there will definitely not be the possibility of dialogue and engagement, and the United States has shown that it is totally unreliable," Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told a weekly news conference on Monday. 

Qasemi criticized the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal and economic sanctions that follow, noting "there are no conditions for such a discussion at all." 

In May, Trump withdrew the United States from the landmark 2015 international agreement designed to deny Tehran the ability to build nuclear weapons. 

Since then, Iran and other signatories have been working to find a way to salvage the agreement, even as the United States has begun reimposing some sanctions on Iran. 

World powers and Iran have been working on an economic package to compensate for U.S. sanctions that begin taking effect in August. 

Trump drew a comparison with his diplomacy toward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who Trump met in a June 12 summit with the aim of convincing Pyongyang to give up its nuclear arsenal. 

"We met as you know with Chairman Kim and you haven't had a missile fired off in nine months. We got our prisoners back. So many things have happened so positive," Trump said. 

Reuters contributed to this report.