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Rouhani rules out talks with Washington before sanctions lifted

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday Tehran would hold talks with the United States only after all sanctions were lifted, a day after US President Donald Trump said he would meet him to try to end the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Trump said on Monday he would meet the Iranian president when conditions were right to end the standoff over a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers, and talks were under way to see how countries could open credit lines to enable Tehran to run its economic affairs.

Rowhani said Iran was always ready for talks. “But first, Washington should act by lifting all illegal and unfair sanctions against Iran.”

Speaking at the Group of Seven summit in the French resort of Biarritz, Trump ruled out lifting economic sanctions to ease Iran’s losses.

“Washington has the key to positive change … so it has to take the first step,” Rouhani said. “Without this step, this lock will not open.”

European signatories have been struggling to calm an escalating standoff between Iran and the United States since Trump announced Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

French President Emmanuel Macron is leading efforts to defuse tensions, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif flew to the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz on Sunday for talks on the sidelines of the summit with French officials.

Since Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal last year, he has pursued a policy of “maximum pressure” in an effort to force Iran into broader talks to curb its ballistic missile program and end its support for proxy forces across the Middle East.

“Iran is not seeking tension with the world,” Rowhani said. We want security in the Middle East, and we want to have better friendly relations with other countries.”

– Reducing commitments –

Iran is gradually breaking the nuclear deal in response to US sanctions and has threatened further violations of the deal in early September unless sanctions are eased.

“We will continue to reduce our commitments in the 2015 agreement if there are no guarantees for our interests,” Rouhani said.

The 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers, reached under former US President Barack Obama, was aimed at curbing Iran’s uranium enrichment program in exchange for lifting many international sanctions against Tehran.

Iran has ruled out talks with Washington on its military capabilities, particularly its ballistic missile program, which it says is defensive. Tehran denies its missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads and says its nuclear program is peaceful.

Rowhani said the pursuit of nuclear weapons was banned under a fatwa issued by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the early years of the 21st century.

“We never wanted nuclear weapons because of the supreme leader’s fatwa,” he said.

Trump and Rouhani are due to attend the UN General Assembly in September, but any meeting between them must be approved by Khamenei, who has the final say on all state-related issues.

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