VOA – U.S. President Donald Trump says he never agreed to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for talks, disputing an earlier assertion by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Earlier in the day, Rouhani said the United States had offered to do so and that the issue was under discussion.
“They [the United States] had clearly stated that we would lift the entire sanctions,” Rouhani said, upon returning to Tehran from the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
According to Rouhani’s official website, the Iranian leader said that “the German chancellor, the prime minister of Britain and the president of France were in New York and all insisted that this meeting take place and America says that it will lift the sanctions.”
Iran analyst Alex Vatanka of the Middle East Institute in Washington said, “Perhaps Rouhani is hoping he can push Trump in this direction but for Washington to lift sanctions in exchange for talks only seems unlikely.”
But Vatanka added that Tehran’s recent move to release a British-flagged oil tanker two months after it was seized for allegedly breaking maritime rules, and the Trump administration’s decision to release an Iranian on charges for violating sanctions are “small steps but are the kinds of measures that might pave the way for something that starts to look like a confidence-building process” toward a potential negotiation.
Rouhani said Friday his country was ready to take part in negotiations, but not in the current political climate.
“In the atmosphere of sanctions and the existence of sanctions and the toxic atmosphere of maximum pressure, even if we want to negotiate with the Americans in the 5+1 framework, nobody can predict what the end result of the negotiation will be,” he said.
U.S. and Saudi officials have blamed Iran for attacks on Saudi oil installations, which shut down half of that country’s oil production.
Iranian officials, including Rouhani, have denied Tehran was involved.
While many world leaders held talks on the sidelines of the U.N. meetings this week, a meeting between Trump and Rouhani did not occur. Trump said this past Sunday he had no intention of talking with Rouhani, and the Iranian president has said he would not meet with Trump until the United States lifts economic sanctions.
The U.S. president announced new sanctions against Iran’s national bank recently, further escalating economic pressure on the Islamic Republic, but pulling back from any direct military action.
The United States previously imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran because of its alleged nuclear program; but, the U.S. Treasury Department said Friday the latest sanctions were imposed because Iran’s central bank engaged in “terrorism” by providing “billions of dollars” to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah.