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Trump invites Zarif to White House

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for travel to Bedminster, New Jersey from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., August 2, 2019. (REUTERS)
US President Donald Trump invited Iran’s foreign minister to the White House last month at the height of tensions between the two countries, according to a magazine report.

The invitation, extended by Sen. Rand Paul with permission from the president, was turned down for now, The New Yorker reported on Friday. The minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said it was up to Tehran to decide on accepting it.

Neither the White House nor the State Department responded to AFP requests for comment on the report, which quoted US and Iranian sources and what the magazine called a well-placed diplomat.

Zarif told the magazine he would not want a White House meeting that yielded just a photo op and a two-page statement afterward, The New Yorker said.

Trump has said publicly several times that he is willing to hold talks with the Iranians even as he lambasts Tehran as a corrupt, incompetent and dangerous regime that is a threat to regional security and US interests.

Last year Trump pulled the US out of an international accord designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program, and has reimposed sanctions on Iran — and even slapped them on Zarif this week — in an effort to force it to renegotiate the agreement.

Paul had been working for weeks on setting up a meeting with Zarif and on July 15, conferred with him in New York, passing on an invitation from the president for him to come to the White House, the magazine said.

At the one-hour meeting with Paul, the Iranian minister suggested ways to end the nuclear impasse and address Trump’s concerns, The New Yorker said.

Tensions soared in the Gulf in June and July amid attacks on oil tankers, Iran’s downing of an unmanned US surveillance drone and after the US said it had downed an Iranian drone.

Trump has said the attack against the US drone prompted him to order a military strike in response, only to call it off at the last minute.

Zarif meanwhile said on Saturday Iran will take another step to reduce its compliance with a landmark 2015 nuclear deal without elaborating, according to parliamentary news agency ICANA.

Nuclear accord

Iran has repeatedly said it will reduce its commitment to the nuclear accord in stages and may even withdrew from the pact altogether unless the remaining signatories find ways to shield its economy from US sanctions. Washington pulled out of the deal last year.

“The third step in reducing commitments to (the nuclear deal) will be implemented in the current situation,” he said.

“We have said that if (the deal) is not completely implemented by others then we will also implement it in the same incomplete manner. And of course all of our actions have been within the framework of (the deal).”

Last month, Iran threatened to restart deactivated centrifuges and ramp up enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity in a move away from the nuclear deal.

Iranian officials have said that all of Tehran’s moves in reducing its commitments to the nuclear deal are reversible as long as the remaining signatories uphold their commitments.

Fears of a Middle East war with global repercussions have risen since US President Donald Trump withdrew last year from the 2015 deal and revived a panoply of sanctions meant to push Tehran into wider security concessions.

The US on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Zarif himself, blocking any property or interests he has in the US, although Zarif said he had none.

He added at a charity event on Friday night that he is proud to be sanctioned by America for defending the rights of Iranian people, the IRIB news agency reported.
Last Modified: Monday، 05 August 2019 11:20 PM