WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - President Donald Trump said there's "always a chance" of the US taking military action in Iran, though he'd prefer to engage verbally with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
"I'd rather not, but there is always a chance," Mr Trump said when asked about the prospect of conflict in an interview on ITV's Good Morning Britain. "I'd much rather talk."
The comments come amid heightened tension between the two countries after Mr Trump blamed the Islamic Republic for recent violence in the Middle East and ordered 1,500 US troops to the region last month.
The small deployment indicated that Trump's administration wants to avoid fuelling fears of another war, though the President made it clear it wasn't off the table entirely.
Mr Trump said "of course" he'd be willing to talk to Mr Rouhani, pointing out that the Iranian President had himself said he wasn't looking for conflict with the US.
"The only thing is we can't let them have nuclear weapons," Mr Trump said.
Pentagon officials believe Iran was behind recent attacks on oil tankers, a Saudi oil pipeline and the Green Zone diplomatic compound in Bagdhad, though the US hasn't published evidence for the claims.
The United Arab Emirates and other countries are investigating the attacks on the ships, Saudi Arabian Foreign Affairs Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said last month.
"The Americans need to stay away," Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni said on Tuesday.
"Where they've gone there's been war, killings, sedition, and humiliation," he said, adding: "If they get close, we know how to act, we know what needs to be done."
Mr Trump's tougher stance toward Iran - the US pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord signed with global powers and reimposed sanctions - has strained relations with allies in Europe, including the UK.
At their press conference in London on Tuesday, Prime Minister Theresa May said while the two governments agreed to work together to avoid escalation by Iran, they "differ on the means of achieving it."
The nuclear accord capped Iran's nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.
The agreement, the signatories said, would prevent Teheran from building the nuclear weapons that some Western powers and Israel feared were the end goal of its atomic programme.
Iran says its nuclear work is solely aimed at meeting civilian energy and medical needs.
Mrs May said the UK, which is part of EU efforts to protect European trade with the Islamic Republic after the US reimposed economic sanctions, still stands by the nuclear deal.
Mr Trump criticised the accord - and Iran - again in the ITV interview.
Iran was "terrorist nation number one in the world at that time, and probably maybe are today", he said.