BIARRITZ, France — US President Donald Trump said Monday that it was “too early” to meet Tehran’s top diplomat, who made a surprise weekend visit to the G7 summit, but insisted that Washington was not looking for regime change in Iran.
“It’s too soon to meet, I didn’t want to,” Trump told reporters at the summit, saying he knew Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was going to drop in for unscheduled talks and approved the visit.
“I knew he was coming,” Trump said of the visit, which was engineered by France’s Emmanuel Macron in a bid to break the diplomatic deadlock over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program. Zarif met with Macron, and other French, British and German officials.
“I knew everything [Macron] was doing and I approved everything he was doing,” Trump said, adding the French president “asked me for approval.”
“I said if you want to do that, that’s OK. I don’t consider that disrespectful at all.”
A landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Western powers and Iran all but collapsed after Trump unilaterally withdrew US support last year, reimposing sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.
Macron has been trying for months to defuse the tensions between Tehran and Washington by finding ways of resuming dialogue, and held talks with Zarif in Paris on the eve of the summit.
Trump insisted that Washington was interested only in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and he claimed “great unity” among the leaders on the subject of Iran.
“We’ve come to a conclusion, more or less. But the biggest part of the conclusion: They can’t have nuclear weapons,” he said.
“We’re not looking for regime change. You see how that works [in other places],” Trump also said at the summit.
“What we want is very simple. It’s got to be non-nuclear (as well),” Trump said. “We’re going to talk about ballistic missiles…, about the timing. But they (Iran) have to stop terrorism. I think they are going to change, I really do.”
He also said: “We’re looking to make Iran rich again, let them be rich, let them do well, if they want.”