US President Donald Trump on Wednesday declined to rule out meeting with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani even as his administration piled more sanctions on Tehran.
Asked at the White House whether he might meet with the Iranian leader at the United Nations, Trump responded: “Sure, anything is possible.”
Rouhani had announced earlier Wednesday that Tehran was poised to take another step back from its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, from which the US withdrew last year.
A short time after Rouhani’s statement, US officials announced new sanctions on Iran, this time targeting a shipping network it said was run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to smuggle oil.
Brian Hook, the State Department coordinator on Iran, also ruled out a French-proposed credit line that Tehran said could bring it back into full compliance with the 2015 deal curbing its nuclear program.
This is not the first time that Trump has expressed an interest in such a meeting.
Last Monday, he said that he was ready to meet with the Iranian president within weeks. Rouhani replied by saying that the US would need to scale back punishing sanctions first before he would be game for a summit. Subsequently, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called a meeting between the two leaders unthinkable.
The US president’s openness to a meeting with Iran’s leader set off alarm bells in Israel.
Rouhani had initially appeared to support talks with the Americans but later backed off.
“We’ve said it before time and again, and we say it again: We have no intention to hold bilateral talks with the United States,” Rouhani said Tuesday, according to a report from Iran’s Mehr news agency. “We never did and never will. It has been the case in the past year and a half, and even in previous years.”
Trump has put in place a policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran through crippling sanctions.
Since the US pullout from the nuclear deal, Iran has lost billions of dollars in business deals allowed by the accord as the US reimposed and escalated sanctions largely blocking Tehran from selling crude abroad, a crucial source of hard currency for the Islamic Republic.