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Friday , November 22 2019

Rouhani rejects talks – Checks on offer

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, left, meets with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 25, (Agencies): Iran will never hold talks with the United States under pressure, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, but added that lifting all the sanctions Washington imposed on Tehran and respecting a UN Security Council resolution could pave the way for talks.

“Our response to talks under pressure is NO,” said Rouhani, but warned that Iran might exit a 2015 nuclear deal if the European powers failed to salvage the deal. “We are committed to the nuclear deal … but Iran’s patience has a limit,” said the pragmatic president, who was architect of the deal with six powers.

Iran has criticized the European parties to the deal for their failure to protect Iran’s interests by shielding them from US penalties which has been reimposed and tightened since last year when Washington exited the pact. In retaliation, Iran has gradually reduced its commitments to the agreement.

The confrontation between arch enemies Iran and the United States has ratcheted up after attacks on Saudi oil facilities on Sept 14 that Washington, the EU and Riyadh blame on Tehran despite its denials.

Rouhani said the only way to secure peace and safety in the Gulf was strengthening “consolidation among all the nations with common interests in the Arabian Gulf and the Hormuz region.” He said to those countries that “we are neighbors with you, not with America” and called for the United States to withdraw troops from the region. Iran’s English-language Press TV said on Wednesday Iran was offering to agree to enhanced inspections of its nuclear programme, if the US Congress ratifies the 2015 nuclear deal and Washington lifts all sanctions.

“Iran’s proposed amendment to the nuclear deal calls for early approval of an additional protocol by Iran’s parliament, nuclear deal approval by US Congress, lifting of all sanctions by Washington,” state-run Press TV said, citing what it described as informed sources. Iran’s defense minister Wednesday rejected the idea of a deal with world powers over the country’s missile program.

The official IRNA news agency quoted Gen Amir Hatami as saying that any deal with the United States over Iran’s “missile power” would damage the country’s capabilities. He said Iran’s leaders all support improving the missile program. Tehran long has insisted its ballistic missile program is non-negotiable. US President Donald Trump, however, cited it as a reason for unilaterally withdrawing the US from the nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers over a year ago.

Hatami’s remarks come as the US and its allies say Iran is behind a major drone-and-missile strike on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry. Iran has denied the allegations, saying any strikes by the US or Saudi Arabia will lead to “all-out war.”

Separately, the chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guard in charge of the country’s missile program, Gen Hossein Salami, was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying Wednesday that Iran has shown self-restraint despite the capabilities of its military, including its missile program. “We are not looking for trouble but we will respond to troublemakers,” he said.

Referring to Iran-backed Houthi rebel attacks on Saudi Arabia, Salami said Iran has improved its military power to the extent that other countries blame it for actions carried out by the rebels themselves. “The enemy assumes that we are in charge of any sophisticated job,” he said. Without elaborating, he added that the Houthis were capable of “changing the entire field of war.”

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