US President Donald Trump told the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Tuesday that the world has a “duty to act” when it comes to Iran.
“One of the greatest security threats facing peace-loving nations today is the repressive regime in Iran,” Trump said.
“No responsible government should subsidise Iran’s bloodlust,” Trump added. “As long as Iran’s menacing behaviour continues, sanctions will not be lifted. They will be tightened.”
The US president’s speech comes as tensions flare in the Middle East over attacks on Saudi oil facilities earlier this month.
The US, Saudi Arabia, Germany, the UK and France blame Iran for the attacks, allegations Tehran has repeatedly denied. The attacks were claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who have been locked in a war with a Saudi-UAE-led coalition since 2015.
Ahead of his speech on Tuesday, Trump struck a conciliatory tone, saying he was in a “very strong position” with Iran, which he believed wanted to do something to defuse tensions with the US.
During his speech, the US president said it was “time for Iran’s leaders to finally put the Iranian people first. America is ready to embrace friendship with all who genuinely seek peace and respect.”
James Bays, Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor, said it seemed “that this White House and this president are still potentially looking at a diplomatic route”.
The heightened tension in the Middle East has led to fears that further action on any side could rapidly escalate a confrontation that has been raging just below the surface in the wider region in recent months.
On Tuesday, Trump said that the US did not seek conflict with other countries but would defend US interests.
“We desire peace, cooperation and mutual gain with all. But I will never fail to defend America’s interests,” Trump said.
Last month, Trump called off a military attack on Iran at the last minute after Tehran downed an unmanned US military drone. Iran maintains the drone was in Iranian airspace. The US says it was in international territory.
Tensions have been boiling since Trump pulled the US out of Iran’s 2015 agreement with world powers that curtailed Iranian nuclear activities and the US reimposed sanctions that sent Iran’s economy into freefall.
Tehran has ruled out talks with Washington unless sanctions are lifted.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday said he was open to discussing small changes, additions or amendments to the 2015 nuclear deal if the US lifted sanctions on the country.
“I will be open to discuss small changes, additions or amendments to nuclear deal if sanctions were taken away,” Rouhani told reporters in New York.
In Trump’s wide-ranging speech on Tuesday, Trump also had a stern message for China, saying the world was watching how Beijing handled mass demonstrations in Hong Kong that have raised concerns about a potential Chinese crackdown.
Trump also appeared to aim much of his speech at his base at home as he looks to improve his standing among Americans ahead of next year’s presidential election. He delivered a robust defence of his hardline immigration policies and blasted social media companies.
Despite extensively using Twitter to attack his political opponents, Trump said, without giving evidence, that social media platforms were biased against conservatives.