Iran's Rouhani strikes conciliatory tone after Zarif visits Biarritz

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrives to attend the unveiling ceremony for the domestically built mobile missile defence system Bavar-373 in Tehran, Iran August 22, 2019.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrives to attend the unveiling ceremony for the domestically built mobile missile defence system Bavar-373 in Tehran, Iran August 22, 2019. Copyright Official President website/Handout via REUTERS
By Orlando CrowcroftLauren Chadwick
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Hassan Rouhani said that Iran should not miss the chance to salvage nuclear deal


Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran would not have talks with the United States unless the country lifted sanctions, according to Iranian state television.

"We will see no positive change in Iran's relationship with the United States without them giving up the sanctions and following the wrong path they have chosen," Rouhani said, according to IRNA.

His comments came after US President Donald Trump said he would meet with the Iranian president "if the circumstances were correct or right".**

Rouhani had struck a conciliatory tone after his foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited the G7 in Biarritz to discuss salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal, telling an event in Tehran that the country was willing to "give diplomacy a chance."

Rouhani said that while Iran was prepared to restart its nuclear programme in retaliation for the U.S. re-introducing sanctions on the country, it was doing so slowly "to give a chance to diplomacy."

"We should do our job and take action. Even if the odds of success are not 90%, but are 20 or 10%, we must move ahead with it. We should not miss opportunities," Rouhani said.

His comments came after Zarif visited Paris and later Biarritz, holding talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and briefing representatives of the British and German governments. Zarif described the discussions as "constructive."

Mohammed Javad Zarif visited both Paris and Biarritz.

Speaking to Euronews last week, Zarif said that he was happy that Macron had taken the lead in trying to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal, a flagship of former President Barack Obama's foreign policy, which President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran.

“President Macron has been trying to do his best,” he said. “Our partners in Europe have to make a decision, not about Iran but about how they want to deal with the US — whether they want to have independence or whether the US can impose its will.”

Although Iran recently began work on its uranium enrichment programme - halted under the terms of the 2015 deal - Zarif said that the work was reversible. This was echoed by Rouhani on Sunday, with the president saying that Iran was moving deliberately slowly.

“We are also adopting retaliatory measures; we are reducing our commitments [to JCPOA]. While we have reduced commitments in two stages so far and may introduce another cut in the future but we always put two months of time in between to give a chance to diplomacy," he said.

"We should use power – economic, cultural, and military power – and also use political power, and we should talk and reduce problems,” he said.

It is not clear whether the U.S. was informed that Zarif had been invited to Biarritz, but three officials told CNBC that the Trump team had been "blindsided" by the move.

Trump first responded "no comment" when asked about the French president's meeting with Zarif but later said that Macron has asked for his permission.

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