Rouhani Rejected French-Delivered US Offer of Talks

Rouhani Rejected French-Delivered US Offer of Talks Rouhani Rejected French-Delivered US Offer of Talks

Western officials on Thursday confirmed reports of President Hassan Rouhani turning down a request for a direct meeting with his US counterpart, Donald Trump, Which had previously been disputed by the White House.

The US administration's message to Rouhani was delivered by French President Emmanuel Macron hours after Trump's rhetoric-laden speech to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 19, where he questioned the Islamic Republic's domestic and foreign policies, according to several US administration and foreign officials cited by the Washington Post.

Iran's response, later that afternoon, was an unequivocal "no". The Iranians, the French reported, "don't believe you're serious" and thought it was some kind of trick, a senior administration official said.

Word of the proposed Trump-Rouhani meeting first circulated on Sunday, when Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi told reporters in Tehran that "indeed, a request was made by the American side, but it was not accepted by Rouhani".

In discussing the request, some officials described it as "vague" and claimed it left open the question of whether Trump, his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson or some other senior official was on offer to speak with Rouhani.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, queried by NBC News on Sunday about Qasemi's statement, emailed that the account was "false".

At Tuesday's briefing of the US State Department, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said of Qasemi's assertion, "I know that was something that the secretary had floated … The Iranian officials said no and that was the end of it."

Asked directly whether the Iranians had specifically turned down a meeting with Trump, Nauert said, "They did."

Pressed further, however, she spoke only of a proposed meeting with "US officials", before referring any additional questions to the White House.

Tillerson, the senior official said, also had raised the possibility of "talks with other officials at various levels" when he spoke directly with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sept. 20 during a multilateral meeting at the United Nations.

Earlier this week, Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei described the United States as the main enemy of the Islamic Republic.

"My dear children, do not forget, in the important, conducive path toward ideals, your major enemy is the US," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

Trump has accused his predecessor Barack Obama of being too soft on Iran during the negotiations producing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, by agreeing to limit the scope of the talks to the nuclear issue.

Last month, responding to oversight provisions imposed by the US Congress, Trump refused to certify Iranian compliance with the deal.

He has ordered lawmakers to come up with a proposal to rewrite the agreement and impose new sanctions, threatening otherwise to "terminate" US participation.


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