Iran president says Islamic Republic won’t be ‘bullied’ into US talks

Rouhani says any future negotiations with Washington must be conditioned on ‘total respect’ and ‘framework of international law’

President Hassan Rouhani (left) at a meeting of the Iranian cabinet, May 29, 2019. (Iran President official website)
President Hassan Rouhani (left) at a meeting of the Iranian cabinet, May 29, 2019. (Iran President official website)

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani stressed Saturday that Tehran would not be “bullied” into negotiations with the United States and laid down the Islamic Republic’s conditions for talks.

“We are men of reason and negotiation… if one sits at the negotiating table with total respect and in the framework of international law,” Rouhani said, quoted by the government’s website.

“We have shown that we do not submit to bullying and covetous powers,” he said.

Rouhani has repeatedly ruled out negotiations with the US unless Washington lifts sanctions against the Iran and returns to the 2015 nuclear deal signed by Tehran and world powers.

Iran is locked in a tense standoff with the US after Washington withdrew from the deal last year and reimposed sanctions.

The flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea, on May 19, 2019. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Garrett LaBarge/US Navy via AP)

Washington has since May beefed up its military presence in the Middle East due to alleged Iranian “threats.”

But US President Donald Trump said Monday that Washington does not seek “regime change” in Iran and held out the possibility of talks.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has likened negotiations with the Trump administration to “poison” since “they don’t stand by anything,” referring to Washington’s withdrawal from the deal.

On Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Switzerland as part of a four-country European tour to assure allies that despite US intentions to step up economic pressure on Tehran with sanctions, Washington was not seeking war, and may explore opening a channel of communications with Tehran.

Trump has openly signaled that he wants to talk to Iranian leaders and neutral Switzerland, which has long represented US interests in Iran, could be a convenient emissary.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a joint press conference with the German Foreign Minister after a meeting at Villa Borsig in north Berlin on May 31, 2019. (Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

Pompeo will meet the Swiss foreign minister on Sunday, prompting speculation toward that end.

“I’m not going to talk about how we’re communicating or not communicating with (Iran),” Pompeo told reporters on his plane. Asked why he was spending three days in Bern — the Swiss capital that was last visited by a US secretary of state more than two decades ago — he replied coyly only that he’s a “big cheese and chocolate fan.”

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