Rouhani Backpedals, Wants U.S. to Lift Sanctions Before Any Possible Talks – AP

Written by Mohammad Sadat Khansari 

The Iranian regime’s president back-pedaled Tuesday on possible talks with Donald Trump, saying the U.S. president must first lift sanctions imposed on the regime, the Associated Press reported.

Hassan Rouhani’s change of heart came a day after President Trump said Monday that there’s a “really good chance” the two could meet on their nuclear impasse after a surprise intervention by French President Emmanuel Macron during the G-7 summit to try to bring Washington and Tehran together after decades of conflict.

“Without the U.S.’s withdrawal from sanctions, we will not witness any positive development,” Rouhani said in a televised speech on Tuesday, adding that Washington “holds the key” as to what happens next.

“If someone intends to make it as just a photo op with Rouhani, that is not possible,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, Rouhani expressed readiness to negotiate a way out of the crisis following Washington’s pullout from the nuclear deal.

“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 had said. “Even if the odds of success are not 90% but are 20% or 10%, we must move ahead with it. We should not miss opportunities.”

Rouhani also shielded his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, against criticism from hard-liners over his surprise visit Sunday to France’s Biarritz, where G7 leaders were meeting.

The Iranian regime’s English-language channel Press TV issued a vague, anonymous statement later on Monday, rejecting President Macron’s initiative.

President Macron said he hoped Trump and Rouhani could meet within weeks in hopes of saving the 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran struck with world powers, but which the U.S. withdrew from last year.

Since the U.S. pullout from the nuclear deal, Iran’s regime has lost billions of dollars in business deals allowed by the accord as the U.S. re-imposed and escalated sanctions largely blocking Tehran from selling crude abroad, a crucial source of hard currency for the regime.

Rouhani’s U-turn can be seen as a result of pressure from hard-liners in the Iranian establishment who oppose taking a softer tone toward the West, the Associated Press wrote.

The hardline Javan daily, which is close to the regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), warned Rouhani in large font on its Tuesday front page: “Mr. Rouhani, photo diplomacy will not develop the country.”

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