Rouhani 'could meet Trump' if it serves Iran's interests
Macron 'proposes Iran $15-billion line of credit'
Iran and France’s views have become closer over the 2015 nuclear deal, mainly after phone calls between President Hassan Rouhani and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, Iran’s government spokesman said on Monday.
Ali Rabiei also suggested Rouhani could meet US counterpart Donald Trump if it served Iran's interests, while cautioning there was no need to meet an "agitator" in the current circumstances.
Rouhani has had a series of phone calls with Macron in recent weeks aimed at salvaging the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
The French leader has been trying to convince the United States to offer Iran some sort of relief from sanctions it has imposed on the Islamic Republic since pulling out of the deal in May last year.
"In the past few weeks, there have been serious negotiations" between Rouhani and Macron, as well as talks with other European nations, said Rabiei.
"Fortunately, in many areas, our views have come closer together," the government spokesman told a news conference.
Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the nuclear accord and began reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran.
The arch-foes were on the cusp of confrontation in June when Iran downed a US spy drone and Trump ordered retaliatory strikes on Iran before cancelling them at the last minute.
The situation has calmed down somewhat since, with Macron expressing hopes during a G7 summit in late August of organizing a meeting between Rouhani and Trump.
Rouhani has played down the likelihood of a meeting, saying the Americans first needed to lift all sanctions against Iran.
But his government's spokesman hinted on Monday that such a meeting could still happen if it suited Iran's interests.
"The president (Rouhani) still holds the same position that because of national interests, if he's sure that meeting someone will help our people, he will not hold back," Rabiei said.
"In my opinion, the US president's goal for meeting Iran's president is one thing and ours is another. The US president's goal is more for domestic reasons, while we aim to return to what is our right and has been neglected."
He cautioned that "there is no reason for the president to meet an agitator and an economic terrorist in the current situation".
Iran has hit back with countermeasures in response to the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, which gave it relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its atomic program.
Since the United States pulled out of the nuclear deal, European parties to the pact have been trying to convince Iran to remain compliant by promising to shield its economic interests from US sanctions.
Third step looms
Iran has been threatening to take a third step in reducing its commitments to the deal, supposedly on Friday, after already increasing its uranium enrichment and stockpile.
Rabiei warned: “If Tehran’s satisfaction has not been guaranteed about the realizations of commitments (by Europe) by the set deadline, we will take a strong step to reduce commitments.”
Two Iranian officials and one diplomat told Reuters on Aug. 25 that Iran wants to export a minimum of 700,000 barrels per day of its oil and ideally up to 1.5 million bpd if the West wants to negotiate with Tehran to save the nuclear deal.
“Iran’s oil should be purchased and its money accessible,” Rabiei said.
Iran’s oil exports have plummeted because of the U.S. sanctions, which also make it difficult for the country to receive payments through banks.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesman also said on Monday Tehran is prepared to take a “stronger step” in reducing its commitments under the nuclear deal if European countries don’t take action to save the pact.
“Iran is prepared for reducing its commitments if the European parties do not show enough determination... The third step has been designed and will be stronger than the first and second steps to create balance between Iran’s rights and commitments to the JCPOA,” Abbas Mousavi said.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi is heading to Paris to hold talks with French officials about the deal.
An Iranian lawmaker also said Macron had proposed offering Iran a $15-billion line of credit on condition it returns to the fold.
"Macron has proposed Iran stop its third step for now in exchange for this sum, and maybe retreat from its first and second steps to the initial situation," said Ali Motahhari late Sunday.
AFP and Reuters contributed to this story.