Iran favours talks but US must lift sanctions: Hassan Rouhani

AFP Tehran, Iran Aug 06, 2019, 12.07 PM(IST)

File photo of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Photograph:( Reuters )

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'The Islamic Republic of Iran favours talks and negotiations and, if the US really wants to talk, before anything else it should lift all sanctions,' Rouhani said in televised remarks

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Tehran favours talks with Washington but the United States must first lift sanctions it imposed on the Islamic republic.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran favours talks and negotiations and, if the US really wants to talk, before anything else it should lift all sanctions," Rouhani said in a televised speech.

Rouhani, speaking at the foreign ministry after meeting with his top diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said Iran was ready for talks regardless of whether or not the US was party to a landmark nuclear deal.

"Whether they want to come into the JCPOA or not, it’s up to them," said Rouhani, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

He also added, " Peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars".

The Iranian foreign minister on Monday confirmed reports that he had turned down an offer from a US senator to meet President Donald Trump at the White House.

Tehran and Washington have been locked in a battle of nerves since May 2018 when Trump withdrew the United States from a landmark 2015 deal placing limits on Iran's nuclear programme and began reimposing sanctions.

Tensions have soared since the Trump administration began stepping up a US campaign of "maximum pressure" against Iran, with drones downed and tankers mysteriously attacked in Gulf waters.

At the height of the crisis, Trump called off airstrikes against Iran at the last minute in June after the Islamic republic's forces shot down a US drone.

Iran said on Sunday its forces seized a "foreign" tanker carrying smuggled fuel in what would be the third such seizure in less than a month in Gulf waters - a conduit for much of the world's crude oil.

On July 18, the Guards said they had detained the Panama-flagged MT Riah for alleged fuel smuggling. A day later, they announced they had impounded the British-flagged Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz for breaking "international maritime rules".

In response to such incidents, the United States has been seeking to form a coalition whose mission - dubbed Operation Sentinel - it says is to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

However, it has been struggling to build such a coalition, with European countries reticent and believed to be concerned about being dragged into a possible conflict.