Trump willing to talk to Iran, but action on nuclear program must come first: Brian Hook

Brian Hook, the US Special Representative for Iran, looks on during a press conference in Kuwait City on June 23, 2019 during a tour of the Middle East region. (AFP)
Updated 24 June 2019

Trump willing to talk to Iran, but action on nuclear program must come first: Brian Hook

  • Hook told reporters that Iran could “come to the table or watch its economy crumble”

LONDON: US President Donald Trump is ready to talk to Iran about a deal that would lift American sanctions but Tehran would need to curtain its nuclear and missile program, as well as its support for proxies, US Special Representative on Iran Brian Hook said on Monday.
Hook told reporters that Iran could “come to the table or watch its economy crumble,” but declined to give more details about fresh US sanctions expected later on Monday.
Hook was speaking to media by telephone from Oman, where he is touring Gulf countries — including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait — before heading to Paris for talks with his E3 counterparts.

Hook told reporters that the US was looking to agree a treaty that would be ratified by the US Congress, saying the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers was flawed because it had no legal basis.

"This is a president who is very willing to sit down with the regime," Hook said, speaking by telephone from Oman, where he is touring Gulf countries before heading to Paris to explain U.S. policy to European powers. "I think the question people should be asking is ... why Iran continues to reject diplomacy."

The US withdrew last year from the 2015 accord under which Iran accepted curbs to its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Last week the two countries came the closest in years to direct military confrontation after Iran shot down a US drone. Trump called off a retaliatory air strike minutes before impact.

Hook, who accused Tehran of "violent responses to diplomatic pressure," said Iran could come to the negotiating table or watch its economy "continue to crumble."

"They are in a recession now, it is going to get significantly worse," he said ahead of an expected announcement later on Monday on further US sanctions.

He said there was no diplomatic contact, or back channel, between Washington and Tehran at present. Hook said elements of a deal with Tehran would need to involve an end to the arrest of dual nationals in Iran and an end to support for what he said were Iranian proxies in the Middle East who committed clandestine attacks on Iran's behalf.


Iran backtracks on plan to send flight recorders to Ukraine

Updated 37 min 56 sec ago

Iran backtracks on plan to send flight recorders to Ukraine

  • An Iranian official said “the flight recorders from the Ukrainian Boeing are in Iranian hands and we have no plans to send them out”
  • He said Iran is working to recover the data and cabin recordings, and that it may send the flight recorders to Ukrain or France

TEHRAN: The Iranian official leading the investigation into the Ukrainian jetliner that was accidentally shot down by the Revolutionary Guard appeared to backtrack Sunday on plans to send the flight recorders abroad for analysis, a day after saying they would be sent to Kyiv.
Hassan Rezaeifar was quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency as saying “the flight recorders from the Ukrainian Boeing are in Iranian hands and we have no plans to send them out.”
He said Iran is working to recover the data and cabin recordings, and that it may send the flight recorders — commonly known as black boxes — to Ukraine or France. “But as of yet, we have made no decision.”
The same official was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Saturday as saying the recorders would be sent to Ukraine, where French, American and Canadian experts would help analyze them. Iranian officials previously said the black boxes were damaged but are usable.
It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts. Iran may be hesitant to turn over the recorders for fear that more details from the crash — including the harrowing 20 seconds between when the first and second surface-to-air missiles hit the plane — will come to light.
The Guard’s air defenses shot the plane down shortly after it took off from Tehran on Jan. 8, killing all 176 people on board. Hours earlier, the Guard had launched ballistic missiles at US troops in Iraq in response to the US airstrike that killed Iran’s top general in Baghdad. Officials say lower-level officers mistook the plane for a US cruise missile.
Iranian officials initially said the crash was caused by a technical problem and invited countries that lost citizens to help investigate. Three days later, Iran admitted responsibility after Western leaders said there was strong evidence the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile.
The victims included 57 Canadian citizens as well as 11 Ukrainians, 17 people from Sweden, four Afghans and four British citizens. Most of those killed were Iranians. The other five nations have demanded Iran accept full responsibility and pay compensation to the victims’ families.
The plane was a Boeing 737-800 that was designed and built in the US The plane’s engine was designed by CFM International, a joint company between French group Safran and US group GE Aviation. Investigators from both countries have been invited to take part in the probe.