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Iran's president responds to Trump at G-7: First lift sanctions, then let's talk

Hasan Rouhani's change of heart came after Trump said there's a chance the two could meet following a surprise intervention by France's president at the G-7 summit.
Image: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a ceremony in Tehran on Aug. 27, 2019.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a ceremony in Tehran on Tuesday.Iranian Presidency / Handout / AFP - Getty Images

TEHRAN — Iran's president reiterated Tuesday that talks with the United States would only be possible if Washington first lifts sanctions imposed on Tehran, a day after President Donald Trump said he was open to talks "if the circumstances were correct."

Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that a meeting between the two otherwise would simply be a photo op and "that is not possible."

Rouhani's comments came a day after Trump said Monday there's a good chance the two could meet following a surprise intervention by French President Emmanuel Macron during the G-7 summit to try to bring Washington and Tehran together.

"If the circumstances were correct, were right, I would certainly agree" to meet with Rouhani, Trump said at a news conference with Macron. He said a meeting within weeks is realistic.

Earlier Monday, Rouhani had expressed readiness to negotiate a way out of the crisis following America's pullout from the Iran nuclear deal.

A day later, however, Rouhani saidthat "without the U.S.' withdrawal from sanctions, we will not witness any positive development." The Iranian president added that Washington "holds the key."

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also told Iran's news agency IRNA on Tuesday that a one-on-one meeting between Rouhani and Trump was "not imaginable."

"I said this in Biarritz — unless the U.S. comes back to the 5 plus 1 and performs the JCPOA, but still at that time there will be no one-on-one talks," he said referring to the five members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany and the official acronym for the Iran nuclear deal.

European parties to the deal have struggled to calm the deepening confrontation between Iran and the United States since Trump pulled Washington out of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions that have hit the Iranian economy.

Iran has scaled back its commitments under the pact in retaliation to U.S. sanctions.

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

Trump and Rouhani are both due to attend the U.N. General Assembly in September.