Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Monday he would not meet with President Donald Trump this week when the two world leaders are both in New York for the United Nations General Assembly session.
In an interview with NBC News, Rouhani said “there is no such program for a meeting” and accused the Trump administration of escalating tensions between the two countries.
At the U.N. meetings, Trump is expected to use a series of speeches to push a hard line against Iran – trying to persuade skeptical allies to penalize Iran over its support for terrorism and ballistic missile program. Trump withdrew the U.S. from of a multilateral agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program, over the strenuous objections of France and other signatories to that deal.
Since then, the U.S. has re-imposed tough economic sanctions that were lifted as part of the nuclear agreement, and more stringent penalties are set to take effect in November.
Rouhani told NBC that before he would engage in talks with Trump, the U.S. would need to fix the rift created by its decision to abandon the nuclear deal.
“Naturally, if someone is keen on having a meeting and holding dialogue and creating progress in relationships, that person would not use the tool of sanctions and threats [and bring] to bear all of its power against another government and nation,” Rouhani said. “That means that the necessary willpower is absent in order to resolve outstanding issues.”
Rouhani also said Tehran could withstand U.S. economic sanctions, although they have already worsened Iran’s economic crisis. Experts believe the next round of sanctions, including on Iran’s oil industry, could cripple its economy. In an August report, analysts with Oxford Economics said they expected the oil sanctions to send Iran’s economy into recession when they go into effect in November.
But Rouhani told NBC that the Trump administration’s threats to choke off Iranian oil exports were not credible.
“The United States is not capable of bringing our oil exports to zero,” Rouhani said. “It’s a threat that is empty of credibility. Perhaps on this path, we will sustain certain pressures but certainly the United States will not reach its objective.”
Contributing: Sergio Bustos
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