Rouhani: Iran open to negotiations but not at cost of ‘surrender’
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Rouhani: Iran open to negotiations but not at cost of ‘surrender’

Comments by Iranian president appear to rule out renewed nuclear talks with US unless sanctions on Tehran are lifted

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a meeting during his provincial tour to the North Khorasan, Iran, July 14, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a meeting during his provincial tour to the North Khorasan, Iran, July 14, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday his country was open to holding talks on its nuclear program but would not be browbeaten into doing so.

“We are fully ready for fair, legal negotiation based on respect and dignity to resolve problems, but we will not surrender under the name of negotiation,” he said during a cabinet meeting, according to his official website.

Rouhani appeared to be reiterating comments from earlier this month that he was willing to negotiate with the United States if it first lifts sanctions and rejoins the 2015 international accord meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

The US has been waging a “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran since President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal last year, reimposing tough sanctions in a bid to return Tehran to the negotiating table.

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press after announcing his decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran during a speech from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House on May 8, 2018. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

At the cabinet meeting, Rouhani touted his government’s role in brokering the agreement, noting the windfall Iran received from the lifting of longstanding sanctions after it took effect. He went on to hit out at rivals Israel and Saudi Arabia for opposing the deal and welcoming Trump’s withdrawal.

“Recently, Saudi Arabia and the prime minister of the Zionist regime announced that they played a part in the United States’ withdrawal from the JCPOA, not to mention the extremists inside the US,” Rouhani said, using the acronym for the deal’s official name.

“Of course, their actions proved that the JCPOA was [too] heavy for Zionists and the regional reactionaries to bear,” he added.

Rouhani addressed Iran’s recent decision to violate the deal’s caps on the amount of uranium it can hold and what level it can enrich it to, saying the impact of US sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s lucrative oil exports led it to reassess its approach.

“We acted cautiously toward the US withdrawal until we could sell our oil to the amount we desired, but since they began their fully-fledged sanctions against our oil, we are in new conditions; therefore, we made firm decisions to reduce our commitments under the new conditions,” he said.

From left, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and then British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, during a meeting of the foreign ministers at the Europa building in Brussels, on May 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, Pool)

The deal’s European signatories — Britain, France and Germany — have been seeking to coax Iran into reversing its violations of the agreement, with Tehran demanding economic concessions for doing so.

Along with the three European countries, Iranian allies China and Russia are also parties to the UN-ratified agreement.

Rouhani also commented on tensions in the Persian Gulf in the wake of Iran’s seizure last week of a UK-flagged tanker in retaliation for Britain’s impounding of a vessel off Gibraltar suspected of transporting oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

“We will not allow anyone to cause disturbances in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz,” the Mehr news agency reported him as saying.

A series of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf region, as well as Iran’s downing of a US military drone, have turned the area into a powder keg.

AFP contributed to this report.

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