Iran again rebuffs US talk of Trump-Rouhani meeting

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stressed the United States would maintain its campaign of “maximum pressure” against the Islamic republic. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 September 2019

Iran again rebuffs US talk of Trump-Rouhani meeting

  • Two of Trump’s top lieutenants on Tuesday indicated he was ready to meet the Iranian president without preconditions
  • The Iranian envoy said any meeting must also be held in the framework of the group of major powers that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal

TEHRAN: Iran on Wednesday rejected the possibility of a meeting between President Hassan Rouhani and US counterpart Donald Trump, after the White House signalled it was open to such an encounter.

Trump on Wednesday left open the possibility the United States could ease sanctions on Iran, adding he believes Iran wants to strike a deal with Washington on its nuclear program.
“We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about the possibility the United States would ease up on its “maximum pressure” campaign.

Two of Trump’s top lieutenants on Tuesday indicated he was ready to meet the Iranian president without preconditions, after the US leader sacked his hawkish national security adviser John Bolton.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stressed the United States would maintain its campaign of “maximum pressure” against the Islamic republic.

The idea of a Trump-Rouhani meeting was floated last month by French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been spearheading European efforts to de-escalate tensions between Iran and the United States.

The arch-foes have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran.

Iran’s representative at the United Nations reiterated Rouhani’s position in an interview published Wednesday by state news agency IRNA.

Majid Takht-Ravanchi said a meeting could take place only if Washington ends its “economic terrorism” by lifting all of its sanctions against Tehran.

The Iranian envoy said any meeting must also be held in the framework of the group of major powers that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal.

“As long as the US government’s economic terrorism and such cruel sanctions are imposed on the Iranian people, there is no room for negotiations,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.

The diplomat said Trump’s decision to dismiss Bolton — a hard-liner accused of pushing Trump toward war against Iran — was a matter for the Americans.

“The removal of John Bolton is an internal affair and we don’t take stands on domestic issues,” said Takht-Ravanchi. Asked about the impact of Bolton’s sacking on long-fraught relations between Iran and the United States, he said it was “too soon” to make any judgments.

“Whether the extremist policy of the US changes or not depends on various factors in US foreign policy,” he told ISNA. Bolton is a controversial figure closely linked to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and other aggressive US foreign policy decisions.

He had been seen as one of the main driving forces in the White House’s muscular approach to Iran, North Korea and Venezuela among others.


Lebanese donor hands Nazi artifacts to Israel, warns of anti-Semitism

Updated 08 December 2019

Lebanese donor hands Nazi artifacts to Israel, warns of anti-Semitism

  • Abdallah Chatila spent about 600,000 euros ($660,000) for eight objects connected to Hitler
  • He said he had felt compelled to take the objects off the market

JERUSALEM: wealthy Lebanese-Swiss businessman said Sunday he had bought Adolf Hitler’s top hat and other Nazi artifacts to give them to Jewish groups and prevent them falling into the hands of a resurgent far-right.
Abdallah Chatila said he had felt compelled to take the objects off the market because of the rising anti-Semitism, populism and racism he was witnessing in Europe.
He spent about 600,000 euros ($660,000) for eight objects connected to Hitler, including the collapsible top hat, in a November 20 sale at a Munich auction house, originally planning to burn them all.
But he then decided to give them to the Keren Hayesod association, an Israeli fundraising group, which has resolved to hand them to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center.
Chatila told a Jerusalem press conference it had been a “very easy” decision to purchase the items when he saw the “potentially lethal injustice that those artifacts would go to the wrong hands.”
“I felt I had no choice but to actually try to help the cause,” he added.
“What happened in the last five years in Europe showed us that anti-Semitism, that populism, that racism is going stronger and stronger, and we are here to fight it and show people we’re not scared.
“Today — with the fake news, with the media, with the power that people could have with the Internet, with social media — somebody else could use that small window” of time to manipulate the public, he said.
He said he had worried the Nazi-era artifacts could be used by neo-Nazi groups or those seeking to stoke anti-Semitism and racism in Europe.
“That’s why I felt I had to do it,” he said of his purchase.
The items, still in Munich, are to be eventually delivered to Yad Vashem, where they will be part of a collection of Nazi artifacts crucial to countering Holocaust denial, but not be put on regular display, said Avner Shalev, the institute’s director.
Chatila also met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and visited Yad Vashem.
Chatila was born in Beirut into a family of Christian jewellers and moved to Switzerland at the age of two.
Now among Switzerland’s richest 300 people, he supports charities and causes, including many relating to Lebanon and Syrian refugees.
The auction was brought to Chatila’s attention by the European Jewish Association, which has sought to sway public opinion against the trade in Nazi memorabilia.
Rabbi Mehachem Margolin, head of the association, said Chatila’s surprise act had raised attention to such auctions.
He said it was a powerful statement against racism and xenophobia, especially coming from a non-Jew of Lebanese origin.
Lebanon and Israel remain technically at war and Lebanese people are banned from communication with Israelis.
“There is no question that a message that comes from you is 10 times, or 100 times stronger than a message that comes from us,” Margolin told Chatila.
The message was not only about solidarity among people, but also “how one person can make such a huge change,” Margolin said.
“There’s a place for optimism.”