Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 24 October 2019

Donald Trump has 'no intention' of meeting with Iran at United Nations

As world leaders descend on New York, Mr Trump and Mr Rouhani insist they will not meet

Mr Trump answered questions at the White House before a trip to Texas and Ohio after which he'll continue to New York. EPA
Mr Trump answered questions at the White House before a trip to Texas and Ohio after which he'll continue to New York. EPA

Donald Trump declared he would not meet with Iranian officials at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week.

Mr Trump scotched months of speculation that he would shake the hand of President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the summit at a time of rising tensions. “Nothing is ever off the table but I have no intention of meeting with Iran,” he told reporters on South Lawn of the White House according to a transcript.

Already in New York, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, told US television that his country was steeled for a conflict with the US. He told CBS Face the Nation that the consequences of even undertaking limited strikes in retaliation for this month's attack on Saudi Arabia's main oilfield, would not easily contained. “I’m not confident that we can avoid a war. I’m confident we will not start one, but I’m confident that whoever starts one will not be the one who finishes it,” he said. “That means there won’t be a limited war.”

The foreign minister predicted that international inspectors sent by the UN and France to Saudi Arabia would exonerate Tehran from accusations its forces targeted the oil fields.

“I’m confident that Iran did not play a role. I'm confident that anybody who conducts an impartial investigation will reach that conclusion,” he said. "But I cannot say a priori that the people who are being sent will conduct an impartial investigation because we've had cases in the past where they didn't."

Mr Zarif also said that accusations Iran was arming Yemen’s Houthi rebels with missile and drone technology were wide of the mark.

”The weapons the Yemenis have said these are Yemeni made," he said. "I've heard news stories that they are different from the weapons that we produce. I believe the Yemenis. Based on what I know, the Yemenis have the technology and the know-how.”

Commenting on an initiative by President Emmanuel Macron of France to overhaul the 2015 nuclear deal by working around US sanctions as a first step to talks on nuclear, regional stability and missile proliferation, Mr Zarif said President Trump was trying to make Iran pay twice for a deal that was already signed and sealed.

“Let me give you an example that President Trump would easily understand in transactional terms - in real estate terms,” he said. “I buy a building from you and somebody inherits your company from you next year and he comes and tells me, "I didn't sell that building to you. I need a higher price and a worse building." Would you buy it? Would anybody in, to use President Trump's word, in any history buy this building? Do you have any example in any history, again to use his word, of anybody doing this?”

Mr Zarif said he would not meet Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, after he was subjected to American sanctions.

“There's no reason to,” he said. “Basically Secretary Pompeo is prevented by law from meeting me because he designates me.”

Updated: September 22, 2019 05:53 PM

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