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.


Iranian regime’s strategy of deepening suffering of Yemeni people condemned

An Arab coalition soldier patrolling the Saudi border with Yemen. (File/AFP)
Updated 30 March 2020

Iranian regime’s strategy of deepening suffering of Yemeni people condemned

  • Houthis ‘not serious about peace push as their attack came shortly after they welcomed UN call for truce’

AL-MUKALLA: The internationally recognized government of Yemen has strongly condemned Houthi ballistic missile attacks on Saudi Arabia on Saturday night, saying that the Houthis sought to pressure the Kingdom to halt its military support to their Yemeni opponents.

“We strongly condemn the cowardly terrorist attack by the Houthi militia on Riyadh and Jizan,” Yemen’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
The government said that the Iran-backed Houthis were not serious about making peace in Yemen as their attack came shortly after they welcomed a UN call for a truce in Yemen.
“This is Iran’s continued strategy for deepening the suffering of the Yemeni people,” the statement said.
In the port city of Aden, Salem Al-Khanbashi, Yemen’s deputy prime minister, linked Houthi missile attacks to fresh territorial gains by the government backed by Arab coalition warplanes, noting that the Houthis wanted the Kingdom to stop its military support, which blocks their advances on the ground.
“This is a natural reaction to the victories in Nehim, Serwah and Jawf,” Al-Khanbashi said, referring to raging battlefields where government forces battle major Houthi offensives.
Military commanders and officials say that massive air support and military logistics from the Saudi-led coalition helped Yemen’s army troops and allied tribesmen push back Houthi attacks on Marib’s Kawfal military base and recapture areas in the northern province of Jawf.
Hundreds of Houthi fighters have been killed over the past couple of months in airstrikes by the coalition’s warplanes.
“The Houthis targeted the Kingdom since it’s the leader of the coalition. The coalition has contributed to the successes on the ground,” Al-Khanbashi said.
When the Houthis supported the UN call for a cease-fire to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, many Yemeni officials questioned their stand, arguing that Houthi actions on the ground and their breaches of the previous deal showed that they would not stick to their word.
“This is an untrusted group. They have not put into place arrangements related to the Stockholm Agreement such as releasing prisoners and lifting their siege,” Al-Khanbashi said.
Yemeni officials also think the Houthis positively responded to the truce calls to get a commendation from the UN.
Experts also believe that the Houthis shelled the Saudi cities with ballistic missiles to warn the Kingdom against maintaining its support of the Yemeni government.
Yasser Al-Yafae, a political analyst based in Aden, told Arab News that Saudi military support had played an important role in shoring-up government forces that fight off Houthi attacks on the central city of Marib.
“They want to force the Kingdom to stop airstrikes that obstruct their continuous push on Marib,” Al-Yafae said.
Houthi missile attacks on the Kingdom also boosted calls by Yemeni military commanders for intensifying military pressure on the Houthis on all battlefields, including the western city of Hodeida, instead of seeking peace from the rebels. Houthis have exploited the truce in the
western city of Hodeida for regrouping and escalating attacks on other fronts, Yemeni officers said.
Rafeq Doumah, a military officer from the pro-government Tehama Brigades in Hodeida, said that the Houthi missile attack was proof that the Houthis did not want peace, or respected any agreement, calling for the resumption of a military offensive on Hodeida city that was stopped following the Stockholm deal.
“The only solution (is that army) troops march toward Hodeida and Saada,” he said.