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Iran’s Rouhani suggests US talks possible if sanctions lifted

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani in the Kremlin (en.Kremlin.ru/Released)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signaled on Wednesday that talks with the United States might be possible if Washington lifted sanctions, days after U.S. President Donald Trump said a deal with Tehran on its nuclear program was conceivable.

Washington withdrew last year from an international nuclear deal signed with Tehran in 2015, and it is ratcheting up sanctions in efforts to shut down Iran’s economy by ending its international sales of crude oil.

Trump said on Monday: “I really believe that Iran would like to make a deal… and I think that’s a possibility to happen.”

Rouhani said in remarks carried by state television: “Whenever they lift the unjust sanctions and fulfill their commitments and return to the negotiations table, which they left themselves, the door is not closed.”

“But our people judge you by your actions, not your words.”

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Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Tuesday that Iran saw no prospect of negotiations with the United States.

Last week the Pentagon announced the deployment of 900 additional troops to the Middle East, and extended the deployment of another 600 service members in the region, describing it as an effort to bolster defenses against Iran.

Speaking with reporters en route to Indonesia on Wednesday, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the additional troops announced last week would be going to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Without giving details or evidence, Shanahan said that while the Iranian posture had changed recently, the threat remained.

He added that sending military assets into the region, like deploying bombers, Patriot missiles and accelerating the movement of an aircraft carrier strike group to the Middle East, had helped deter attacks against Americans in Iraq.

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton also said on Wednesday naval mines “almost certainly from Iran” were used to attack oil tankers off the United Arab Emirates this month, and warned Tehran against conducting new operations.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi dismissed Bolton’s remarks as a “ludicrous claim”.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London, Idrees Ali in Jakarta, and Dubai newsroom; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Hugh Lawson and Frances Kerry)

© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019