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Iran president urges US to lift sanctions, drop missile issue to resume talks

Rouhani says new agreement possible, but American ‘maximum pressure’ campaign pushing away prospect of negotiations

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani waits for the bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarter on September 24, 2019, in New York. (Ludovic MARIN / AFP)
Iranian President Hasan Rouhani waits for the bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarter on September 24, 2019, in New York. (Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

AP — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged the United States on Thursday to “cease this policy of maximum pressure,” saying it was driving the possibility of negotiations even further away.

Rouhani stuck to his insistence that US sanctions must be lifted before he would talk with US President Donald Trump, although he did not totally rule out such a meeting if they remain in place.

He spoke about discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on trying to promote talks, and he made clear that contacts are continuing.

“I don’t want to say such plans will never be realized, but thus far during this visit, we have not reached a point of confirmation,” Rouhani said.

But he said the Americans are still pursuing their previous policies, “in other words more pressure aimed at reaching discussions, which is the same thing that is taking them farther and farther away from discussions and negotiations.”

“So this is the mistake they have made — and keep making, unfortunately,” the Iranian president said.

“Cease this policy of maximum pressure and pursue a policy of dialogue and logic and reason,” he stressed.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, left, meets his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani in New York, September 19, 2017. (AFP Photo/ Ludovic Marin)

“Give us the needed trust,” he said, so that Iran’s government can engage in negotiations.

Rouhani made clear that Iran could reach a new agreement with the United States that goes beyond the 2015 nuclear deal — but only after the US implements all provisions of the accord. Trump pulled Washington out of the deal last year and re-imposed sanctions, but Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia remain in the accord.

“At the same time, we can talk and conduct talks about actions above and beyond,” Rouhani said.

But Rouhani added that it was “to everyone’s benefit to not ask us” to put Iran’s ballistic missiles on the table. Tehran’s missile program was not part of the nuclear deal agreement that was completed under the Obama administration.

He said the Americans and the Europeans have been selling missiles and other weapons to Middle Eastern countries, including regional rival Saudi Arabia.

“Perhaps even in the same fashion, the same way that they are selling weapons to our neighbors they should make those available for sale to us as well,” Rouhani said.

Rouhani’s comments came one day after he accused Washington of engaging in “international piracy” with its sanctions against Iran.

Iran’s economy has been buckling under the weight of the sanctions, and Trump added to them on Wednesday, targeting Tehran’s ability to sell its oil by imposing penalties on six Chinese companies and their chief executives for continuing to transport Iranian crude.

Tensions in the Middle East have risen as the nuclear deal has unraveled and Iran has turned back to expanding its nuclear enrichment program, despite previous compliance with it for up to a year after Trump’s withdrawal from the accord.

Rouhani also again denied that Iran had anything to do with drone and missile strikes against key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia on September 14 that rattled the global oil markets.

Saudi Arabia has invited UN investigators to assess where the strikes were launched from and said Iranian weapons were used. The US, France, Germany and Britain also have said they believe Iran is behind the strikes.

“Those who make the allegations must provide the needed proof to back up those allegations,” Rouhani said.

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