Iran ‘favours’ talks despite Trump snub

TEHRAN: President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Iran favours talks with the US if it lifts sanctions against the Islamic Republic, despite his top diplomat turning down a meeting with US President Donald Trump.
Rouhani said “peace with Iran is the mother of all peace” and “war with Iran is the mother of all wars” as he defended a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
“Iran favours talks and negotiations and, if the US really wants to talk, before anything else it should lift all sanctions,” Rouhani said in remarks aired live on state television.
Tensions between Iran and the US have been rising since Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the nuclear deal in May 2018 and began imposing sanctions on it as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign.
Rouhani, speaking after meeting with his top diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said Iran was ready for talks regardless of whether or not the US was party to the deal.
“Whether they want to come into the JCPOA or not, it’s up to them,” said Rouhani, referring to the accord known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“All sanctions should be lifted so that there will be no criminals facing us,” he said, accusing the US of committing acts of “economic terrorism” for blocking food and medicine imports.
In response, the US ambassador on disarmament Robert Wood said: “Iran simply needs to make up its mind to decide what it wants to do.”
“My president has said he is willing to sit down and have a discussion with Iran. We are not sure Iran wants to have that discussion,” he said in answer to a question from AFP on the sidelines of a conference in Geneva.
However, Rouhani described as “weird” the US approach of calling for negotiations and then slapping sanctions on Zarif.
“So how should we negotiate?” he said on Tuesday. “The person in charge of negotiations is the foreign minister. He must talk to you.”
Trump has said publicly several times he is willing to hold talks with Iran even as he lambasts its leadership as corrupt, incompetent and a threat to regional security and US interests.
Twelve months on from the US withdrawal, Iran responded by suspending some of its commitments under the nuclear deal.
Rouhani, with Zarif sitting beside him, defended the foreign minister who has faced criticism from hardliners over his role in the deal ultimately abandoned by the Americans.
“We had so many economic victories (in the wake of the deal) that it enraged some people,” he said.