US President Donald Trump said in an interview broadcast on Wednesday that while he did not want war with Iran, there was “always a chance” it would happen.
Trump spoke to the ITV television network during a state visit to Britain.
Iran, he said, “is a place that was extremely hostile when I first came into office.”
He added: “They were a terrorist nation, number one in the world at that time and probably maybe are today.”
Asked if he believed military action would be needed against Tehran, he said, “There’s always a chance. Do I want to? No, I’d rather not. But there’s always a chance.”
He said he “would much rather talk” with Iran, and replied “yeah, of course,” when asked if he’d be did not rule out a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Trump’s comments come after weeks of increasingly belligerent rhetoric and actions between the two countries.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran soared recently over America’s deployment last month of an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf amid reports of intelligence information that said Iran planned attacks against US forces in the region.
Last year, the US withdrew from a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and re-imposed sanctions on Iran targeting the country’s oil sector.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the US is willing to talk with Iran “with no preconditions.” Iran says the US must return to the deal first.
On Tuesday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said the country would continue resisting US economic and political pressure.
Khamenei addressed thousands of people on the 30th anniversary of the death of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, in Khomeini’s mausoleum in the capital Tehran.
Without referring to the US by name, Khamenei said “standing and resisting the enemy’s excessive demands and bullying is the only way to stop him.”
Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, said the US is treating Iran with hostility because “they want us to be losers and put our hands up as a sign of surrender, and because we don’t do that, they threaten us.”
Khamenei added: “Resistance has a cost, but the cost of surrendering to the enemy is higher.”
The Ayatollah urged Iranian officials not to pay attention to offers for negotiations made by the US.
“Wherever Americans have set foot, a war broke out, a fratricide began, a sedition was instigated, or an exploitation or colonialism began there,” he said.
The supreme leader added that Iran is under pressure to negotiate over its missile program because it has been developed to the point where it is a deterrent.
AP contributed to this report.