Iran's Rouhani tells US: No talks until sanctions lifted

Iran's president says 'unjust' sanctions must be lifted to end deadlock, after Trump indicates willingness to meet.

    Iran's Rouhani tells US: No talks until sanctions lifted
    Rouhani said Iran wanted to solve problems, but was not 'after photo-ops [File: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images]

    Iran will not talk to the United States until all sanctions imposed on Tehran are lifted, President Hassan Rouhani has said, a day after US President Donald Trump said he would meet his Iranian counterpart to try to end a nuclear standoff.

    Trump said on Monday he would meet Iran's president under the right circumstances to end a confrontation over Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal and that talks were under way to see how countries could open credit lines to keep Iran's economy afloat.

    "The step is to retreat from sanctions. You must retreat from all illegal, unjust and wrong sanctions against the nation of Iran," Rouhani said in a televised speech in the capital Tehran on Tuesday. 

    "Without taking this step, the deadlock will not be unlocked," he added.

    "Without America withdrawing from sanctions and abandoning the wrong path it has chosen, we will not witness any positive development. The key to positive change is in the hands of Washington."

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    Rouhani's comments indicated a change of heart, a day after he had expressed readiness to negotiate a way out of the crisis. 

    "If I knew that going to a meeting and visiting a person would help my country's development and resolve the problems of the people, I would not miss it," he said on Monday. "Even if the odds of success are not 90 percent but are 20 percent or 10, we must move ahead with it. We should not miss opportunities."

    Al Jazeera's Assed Baig, reporting from Tehran said: "It looks like there has been a change overnight and Iran is reiterating its position that no there will be no talks, no negotiations as long as the US sanctions are in place."

    Economy affected

    Iran's economy has been battered by US sanctions reimposed after Trump last May pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

    "Iran's exports have been drastically reduced, the banking sector has been affected as well as the economy," said Al Jazeera's Baig.

    The landmark accord, negotiated in 2015, offered Iran relief from global sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme. 

    Speaking at a G7 summit in the French resort of Biarritz on Monday, Trump ruled out lifting economic sanctions to compensate for losses suffered by Iran.

    The remaining signatories - the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia - have struggled to salvage the deal amid deepening tensions. 

    Trump has put in place a policy of "maximum pressure" on Iran through crippling sanctions that critics see as raising the risk of conflict in the Middle East between the US and Iran.

    'Take the first step'

    Iran has scaled back its commitments under the pact in response to US sanctions.

    "We will continue to scale back our commitments under the 2015 deal if our interests are not guaranteed," said Rouhani in the speech broadcast live. "Tehran has never wanted nuclear weapons."

    "So take the first step. Without this step, this lock will not be unlocked," Rouhani said.

    In Biarritz, French President Emmanuel Macron said the "conditions for a meeting" between Trump and Rouhani "in the next few weeks" had been created through intensive diplomacy and consultations.

    Trump, speaking alongside Macron at the final news conference of the G7 summit, said he "would certainly agree to that" and that the timeline proposed by his French counterpart was realistic

    "I think he's [Rouhani] going to want to meet. I think Iran wants to get this situation straightened out. They are hurting badly" Trump said.

    Rouhani and Trump are scheduled to be in New York to attend the UN General Assembly at the end of September, which could provide a stage for talks.

    The possible meeting between Rouhani and Trump was blasted as a photo opportunity on Tuesday on the front page of the Javan newspaper close to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

    But the Iranian president said he was not looking for photo opportunities.

    "We seek to resolve issues and problems in a rational way but we are not after photos. For anyone wanting to take a picture with Hassan Rouhani, this is not possible," he said.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies