TEHERAN/WASHINGTON • Iran baulked at US President Donald Trump's offer for a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani, with Mr Rouhani condemning the "illegal" US withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear deal while his adviser said any talks had to start with a return to the deal.
"The Islamic Republic has never sought tension in the region and does not want any trouble in global waterways, but it will not easily give up on its rights to export oil," Mr Rouhani was quoted on his official website as saying in a meeting with British ambassador Rob Macaire yesterday.
"After the US' illegal withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the ball is in Europe's court now."
In May, the United States pulled out of the 2015 deal between world powers and Teheran under which international sanctions were lifted in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
Mr Trump is set to reimpose full sanctions on Iran in two stages this month and in November.
He says he wants a new deal that goes beyond limiting Iran's nuclear programme and includes curbs to its regional behaviour and missile programme.
Iran and other signatories, especially European powers, have been working to find a way to salvage the nuclear agreement.
READY TO MEET ANY TIME
I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet. I don't know that they're ready yet. I ended the Iran deal. It was a ridiculous deal. I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet and I'm ready to meet any time that they want to.
US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, when asked at a White House news conference on Monday whether he was willing to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
WON'T GIVE UP OIL EXPORT RIGHTS
The Islamic Republic has never sought tension in the region and does not want any trouble in global waterways, but it will not easily give up on its rights to export oil.
IRANIAN PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI, who was quoted as saying on his official website in a meeting with British ambassador Rob Macaire yesterday.
Mr Rouhani and some senior military commanders have threatened to disrupt oil shipments from Gulf countries through the Strait of Hormuz if Washington tries to strangle Teheran's oil exports.
Mr Trump said on Monday he would be willing to meet Mr Rouhani with "no preconditions" to discuss how to improve ties.
"I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet," Mr Trump said during a joint press conference at the White House with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
He cited his experience in meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June as a sign of his willingness to help address concerns of war and peace.
When discussing critical issues, "you meet", Mr Trump said on Monday. "There's nothing wrong with meeting."
One possible opportunity would be during the annual United Nations General Assembly in late September. Mr Rouhani typically attends the meetings in New York.
But hours after Mr Trump spoke, the White House appeared to walk back those comments.
"If the Iranian regime changes its behaviour in the ways we've identified, the United States is prepared to take actions to end sanctions, re-establish full diplomatic and commercial relations, permit Iran to have advanced technology, and support the reintegration of the Iranian economy into the international economic system," Mr Garrett Marquis, a National Security Council spokesman, said late on Monday afternoon.
An adviser to Mr Rouhani had said earlier yesterday that any talks with the US had to start with reducing hostility and a return to the nuclear deal.
"Respect for the great nation of Iran, reduction in hostilities, US returning to the nuclear deal... That will open the rocky path of the moment," wrote Mr Hamid Aboutalebi on Twitter.
A senior Iranian parliamentarian meanwhile said it is not a good time for Iran to negotiate with the US.
"Negotiating with the Americans would be a humiliation now," Mr Ali Motahari, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
Mr Trump began ramping up the public pressure on Iran about a week ago, saying on Twitter that the US will not tolerate Iran's "demented words of violence & death" - a response to a warning that Mr Rouhani made to Mr Trump.
The tweet followed a speech by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo labelling Iranian leaders "hypocritical holy men" and calling out many by name for alleged corruption.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to Mr Trump's tweet last week.
"Colour us unimpressed," he tweeted.
He added that "the world heard even harsher bluster a few months ago" and "we've been around for millennia & seen fall of empires, (including) our own, which lasted more than the life of some countries. Be cautious!"
Mr Trump's tough public line echoes the one he used against North Korea last year - warning of "fire and fury" he could rain down on Pyongyang - provoking fears of a military conflict that eased when the two leaders agreed to meet.
Both Mr Pompeo and Mr Zarif will be in Singapore for meetings with Asean leaders this week, but a US official told reporters yesterday there are no plans for a meeting between the two men.
REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE