Rouhani may be willing to meet Trump at UN General Assembly, CNN says

Iranian president heads to New York in quest for support against American measures

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a session of parliament to debate his proposed tourism and education ministers, in Tehran, Iran, September 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a session of parliament to debate his proposed tourism and education ministers, in Tehran, Iran, September 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Amid ever-increasing tensions between Washington and Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has indicated that President Hassan Rouhani may be willing to meet with US President Donald Trump at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour tweeted on Monday.

Despite Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei having categorically ruled out any talks, Amanpour said that “President Rouhani is willing to meet with President Trump in New York this week ‘provided that President Trump is ready to do what’s necessary,’ exchanging sanctions relief for ‘permanent monitoring of Iranian nuclear facilities.'”

“The olive branch has always been on the table, but we’re showing it again,” she quoted Zarif as saying.

Trump has vacillated in recent weeks between showing willingness to meet with Rouhani and accusing the press of spreading “fake news” about his desire for a face-to-face talk.

Rouhani departed Tehran for New York on Monday to attend the UNGA on a mission to win Iran support against “cruel” pressure from the United States.

Speaking to reporters before boarding his flight, Rouhani said his delegation was heading to the UN gathering despite reluctance from the Trump administration to issue them visas.

Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions on Iran in a stated campaign of “maximum pressure.”

“When the Americans aren’t willing [to let Iran participate], we must insist on traveling,” Rouhani said.

General view of the UN General Assembly on December 6, 2018. (UN/Loey Felipe)

“It is essential for us to take part in the UN General Assembly and talk at various levels,” he told a news conference at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport.

“The cruel actions that have been taken against the Iranian nation and also the difficult and complicated issues that our region faces with them need to be explained to the people and countries of the world,” he said.

Rouhani said he would present an Iranian plan for peace in the Gulf to the UN General Assembly.

‘Hormuz Peace Endeavor’

Under the plan, dubbed the Hormuz Peace Endeavor, or HOPE, he said, “all the coastal states of the Persian Gulf are invited to join this coalition to provide and maintain regional security.”

Tensions have flared in the Gulf since May when Iran began reducing its commitments under the nuclear deal and the US deployed military assets to the region.

Tensions escalated further in the wake of devastating September 14 attacks on Saudi oil installations that Washington and Riyadh have, to varying degrees, blamed on Tehran.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “the UK is attributing responsibility with a very high degree of probability to Iran” for the attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure, the UK’s Press Association news agency reported Monday.

The Saudi military displays what they say are an Iranian cruise missile and drones used in recent attack on its oil industry at Saudi Aramco’s facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais, during a press conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, September 18, 2019. (Amr Nabil/AP)

Johnson was himself en route to New York, where he was scheduled to meet with Iran’s president.

Since pulling out of the nuclear deal, the US has slapped waves of sanctions on Iran that have targeted its armed forces, financial sector and senior officials, including Foreign Minister Zarif.

Iran has responded by scaling back its commitments under the 2015 deal that gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for limiting the scope of its nuclear program.

The United States has said it would make its case against Iran at the UN meeting.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US wanted to give diplomacy “every opportunity to succeed” in the wake of the attacks that set aflame Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq plant and the Khurais oil field.

“Our administration’s taking this on in a serious way and we are working diligently to see that this has a diplomatic outcome,” he told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

“But make no mistake about it, if we’re unsuccessful in that and Iran continues to strike out in this way, I am confident that President Trump will make the decisions necessary to achieve our objectives.”

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