CNN quotes Zarif: Iran shows olive branch again
Spokesman: Negotiations possible if US ends sanctions
President Hassan Rouhani set off for New York on Monday to attend the UN General Assembly to make Iran’s case against "cruel" pressure from the United States.
Speaking before flying out of Tehran, Rouhani said his delegation was heading to the UN gathering despite reluctance from President Donald Trump's administration to issue them visas.
Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and subsequently began reimposing sanctions on Iran in a stated campaign of "maximum pressure".
"When the Americans aren't willing (to let Iran participate), we must insist on travelling," Rouhani said.
"It is essential for us to take part in the UN General Assembly and talk at various levels," he told reporters at Tehran's Mehrabad airport.
"We are headed to the UN while the Americans have pushed their sanctions campaign so far that they admit there is nothing left for them to sanction," the president said, noting that the failures had put Washington in a state of "absolute desperation" against Iran.
"The cruel actions that have been taken against the Iranian nation and also the difficult and complicated issues that our region faces with them need to be explained."
Tensions have flared in the Persian Gulf since May this year after the US deployed military assets to the region.
The US has since formed a coalition with its allies Britain, Australia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to escort commercial ships, in response to a spate of incidents in the Persian Gulf.
The tensions escalated further after a devastating September 14 attack on Saudi oil installations.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of carrying out the sneak air attack that set aflame the kingdom’s Abqaiq plant and the Khurais oil field September 14, knocking out half the its oil production.
Iran has categorically denied the allegations.
Following the attacks, the US announced further sanctions on Iran that again targeted its central bank.
Before leaving for New York, Rouhani said Iran would put forward a Persian Gulf peace plan at the UN meeting.
Under the plan dubbed the Hormuz Peace Endeavour, or HOPE, he said, "all the coastal states of the Persian Gulf are invited to join this coalition to provide and maintain regional security".
Rouhani said the Americans were "at the root" of conflicts in the region and their motive for blaming Iran was to deploy forces in the Persian Gulf and have access to its oil.
"It is clear that they want to own all of the oil that is in the east of Saudi Arabia.
"It is clear that the US has other goals and such incidents are their pretext to be more present in the region."
"The Aramco [attack] is the outcome of the aggression that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the Zionist regime have been leading against Yemen," Rouhani said.
"If they (the Saudis) don't initiate aggression, they (the Yemenis) won't hit back and when they do and see the response, it is hard for them to swallow" the retaliation, the Iranian president continued. "Their cruelty is justified in their own eyes."
In a televised speech on Sunday, Rouhani said that Iran was extending a "hand of friendship and brotherhood" to neighboring countries to secure the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz – a vital gateway for the global oil industry.
But the Iranian president also warned foreign forces to "stay away" from the region.
"Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region," Rouhani said.
Since pulling out of the nuclear deal, Washington has slapped sanctions on Tehran's armed forces, financial sector and top officials including Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Iran has responded a year after the US withdrawal by scaling back its commitments under the 2015 deal with world powers that gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for limiting the scope of its nuclear program.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US wanted to give diplomacy "every opportunity to succeed” in the wake of the attack on the Saudi oil installations.
But despite initial warnings by Trump that US forces were "locked and loaded," the US president quickly softened his rhetoric, brushing off Republican hawks who warned that the absence of a forceful response would be read as weakness in Tehran.
On Fox News, Pompeo said the administration was "deeply aware of the risks" of a miscalculation leading to conflagration in the tinderbox region.
"It’s why we want to resolve this in a way that doesn’t resort to kinetic action if it’s at all possible to achieve that," he said.
On Sunday, before leaving the White House on a trip to Texas, Trump once again left open the possibility of an unscheduled meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
"Nothing is ever off the table, completely, but I have no intention of meeting with Iran and that doesn't mean it doesn't happen," Trump said. "I'm a very flexible person, but we have no intention. It's not set up."
"We'll see what happens. Certainly the United Nations Week is going to be very interesting. I look forward to it," he added.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour tweeted that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told her in an interview that Rouhani was willing to meet with Trump in New York this week "provided that President Trump is ready to do what's necessary" by exchanging sanctions relief for "permanent monitoring of Iranian nuclear facilities."
"The olive branch has always been on the table, but we're showing it again," Zarif added, according to Amanpour's tweet.
On Monday, Iran reiterated its conditions for talks with the US.
"If the US is ready to end sanctions and come back to the conditions of the nuclear agreement, the way would be open for us to make a decision," government spokesman Ali Rabiei said.
"One of these decisions could be negotiations."
"There is no conflict of opinion inside the country on this subject," he said.
The US diplomatic offensive comes as Iran has sharpened its tone with a warning from the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps that Iran is "ready for any type of scenario."
"Whoever wants their land to become the main battlefield, go ahead," Major General Hossein Salami told a news conference in Tehran.
In a pre-recorded interview with CBS's "Face the Nation," Zarif denied Iran was behind the September 14 attack, which was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi movement.
"I'm not confident that we can avoid a war," he said. "I'm confident that we will not start one but I'm confident that whoever starts one will not be the one who finishes it," he said.
AFP and Press TV contributed to this story.