Trump says it ‘doesn’t matter’ if Iran meets with him
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Trump says it ‘doesn’t matter’ if Iran meets with him

US president shrugs off signals from Tehran that it has no interest in summit unless Washington rejoins nuclear pact

US President Donald Trump claps during a rally at Olentangy Orange High School in Lewis Center, Ohio, on August 4, 2018. (AFP/ MANDEL NGAN)
US President Donald Trump claps during a rally at Olentangy Orange High School in Lewis Center, Ohio, on August 4, 2018. (AFP/ MANDEL NGAN)

US President Donald Trump threw fresh doubts on chances he might meet with Iranian leaders, saying Saturday it does not matter if he sits down with Tehran to negotiate a new nuclear deal.

Iran has mostly reacted coolly to Trump’s announcement last week that he would meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani without preconditions.

“Iran, and it’s economy, is going very bad, and fast! I will meet, or not meet, it doesn’t matter – it is up to them!” Trump wrote on Twitter late Saturday.

Trump in May pulled the US out of the 2015 accord reached between Iran and world powers meant to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

He has frequently called the pact the “worst deal ever,” and has vowed to negotiate a better one, but Iran has shown no interest in returning to the table and has called on the accord’s remaining partners to stick to it, while also threatening to ramp up its enrichment program again.

Trump and other officials have expressed hopes that the sanctions and demonstrations will help put pressure on the government to come back to the negotiating table.

Iran’s rial currency has been in free-fall in recent weeks and its economy has taken a nose-dive with sanctions set to kick back in starting Monday. Major demonstrations have taken place in several cities in recent days against the country’s economic woes and public buildings have been damaged amid widespread anger against the regime.

A group of protesters chant slogans at the old grand bazaar in Tehran, Iran, Monday, June 25, 2018. Protesters in the Iranian capital swarmed its historic Grand Bazaar on Monday, news agencies reported, and forced shopkeepers to close their stalls in apparent anger over the Islamic Republic’s troubled economy, months after similar demonstrations rocked the country. (Iranian Labor News Agency via AP)

On Saturday, a man taking part in a protest in Karaj in the northern province of Alborz was fatally shot, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Amid the rapidly-spreading protests, Iran’s parliament announced Wednesday it would hold a special session to question Rouhani about the plummeting currency and struggling economy.

Despite the protests, Iranian leaders have reacted skeptically to Trump’s offer of talks, insisting that the US first rejoin the nuclear deal.

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency shows Iranian president Hassan Rouhani during a meeting in Tehran on July 14, 2018. (IRANIAN PRESIDENCY/AFP)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif noted on Twitter last week that Iran and the US had two years of talks leading to the nuclear accord.

“US can only blame itself for pulling out & leaving the table. Threats, sanctions & PR stunts won’t work. Try respect: for Iranians & for int’l commitments,” he tweeted.

Rouhani himself has been mum about the talks offer, which came days after Trump threatened him with dire consequences, in response to Rouhani warning about “the mother of all wars.”

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, who heads the parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, suggested a US return to the nuclear deal would be needed before Tehran could think of negotiating.

“There can be no negotiations with the Americans raising the issue of talks from the position of power,” he was quoted as saying on the website of the Iranian parliament, calling Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal the “biggest blow to diplomacy.”

Reformist lawmaker Mostafa Kavakebian questioned negotiating with Trump, calling him “untrustworthy,” and also said now was not the time for talks.

“If this negotiation (is) carried out in any form, then it will be considered as surrender, and the Iranian nation will not surrender,” he said.

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