US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he believes Iran’s leadership wants a meeting, adding to expectations that he is trying to arrange a summit with his Iranian counterpart at the upcoming UN assembly.
“I can tell you that Iran wants to meet,” he told reporters at the White House.
Trump has repeatedly indicated he is ready to meet with President Hassan Rouhani, who is expected to attend the UN General Assembly in New York this month. However, the Iranians have so far not given a positive response.
Earlier Thursday, US Treasury chief Steve Mnuchin said that a proposed meeting is not yet in the cards.
“As of now, there is no plan for the president to meet with him, although the president has said that he is prepared to meet with no conditions,” Mnuchin told CNBC in an interview.
The treasury secretary seemed to deny a Wednesday report that Trump was mulling easing sanctions on the Islamic Republic to make a meeting happen.
“Let me just clarify this — that Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo, I, and the rest of the national security team are executing on a maximum pressure strategy with Iran,” he said. “There’s no question that it’s working. We have cut off their money.”
He credited the strategy with pushing Iran toward talks: “And that’s the reason why if they do come back to the negotiating table, they are coming back.”
He added: “If the president can get the right deal, that he’s talked about, we’ll negotiate with Iran. If not, we’ll continue the maximum pressure campaign, which is working.”
The Daily Beast reported Wednesday that Trump was actively considering a French plan to extend a $15 billion line of credit to Iran in return for the Islamic Republic’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.
Four sources with knowledge of the US president’s conversations with French President Emmanuel Macron told the news outlet that Trump “has in recent weeks shown openness to entertaining” the proposal.
On Wednesday, Rouhani blasted the Trump administration, saying “the Americans must understand that bellicosity and warmongering don’t work in their favor. Both… must be abandoned.”
Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing the punitive measures.
Iran responded by scaling back its commitments to the accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
However, some analysts see hope for more compromise following this week’s exit of Trump’s hardline national security adviser John Bolton.