Rouhani: French plan for talks broadly acceptable
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday Iran is determined to reduce more of its commitments under a 2015 multinational nuclear deal in response to the US exit from the accord until the country achieves the “desired result.”
"We will continue the reduction of commitments and must continue with complete seriousness," Ayatollah Khamenei told senior commanders of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.
He said the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran is in charge of those countermeasures and must fulfill its duty “completely and precisely,” in the manner required by the government.
The Leader further said the US has so far failed and will “definitely” continue to fail in the “maximum pressure” campaign that it unleashed against the Iranian nation after abandoning the nuclear deal.
Ayatollah Khamenei said the Americans, in fact, got themselves in trouble by pursuing such a policy.
Having failed to make Iran surrender, the Americans moved to arrange a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, which they needed as “a symbol of Iranian submission” to pressure, added the Leader.
Ayatollah Khamenei said the Americans even went as far as “begging and sought the mediation of their European friends,” but they failed to secure such a meeting and will continue to fail.
The Leader described the US sanctions on Iran’s oil exports as a “short-term problem” facing the country, which could generate “long-term benefits” — by cutting reliance on oil revenues — if proper steps are taken to deal with the issue.
Ayatollah Khamenei also said the enemies, especially America, have failed to achieve their plots in regional countries despite spending huge sums of money there.
“They created Daesh at hefty costs and provided it with weapons as well as financial and media support, and now that Daesh has been destroyed thanks to the diligence of youths in Syria, Iraq and Iran, they tell lies [by claiming] that ‘We destroyed Daesh,’” he said.
President Donald Trump himself admitted that the US has spent $7 trillion in the region, and received nothing but damage and defeat in return, he added.
French plan acceptable
President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday a plan for talks presented to the United States and Iran by French President Emmanuel Macron is broadly acceptable to Iran.
He said some wording needed to be changed in the plan, which would require Iran not to pursue nuclear weapons and to help the security of the region and its waterways, while Washington would remove all sanctions and allow Iran to immediately resume oil sales.
Speaking during a weekly cabinet meeting, Rouhani said, "We agree with the general framework by the Europeans." France, Britain and Germany had urged Tehran to enter talks about a new arrangement on the nuclear deal.
Rouhani said that mixed messages about sanctions received from the United States while he was attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week had undermined the possibility of talks and discussing the plan.
He said it was unacceptable for Trump to say publicly that he would intensify sanctions while European powers told Iran in private that he was willing to negotiate.
"The American president on two occasions ... said explicitly that we want to intensify sanctions. I told these European friends, so which part should we accept? Should we accept your word that you say America is ready?" Rouhani said.
"Or the words of the president of America who in 24 hours said explicitly twice ... that I want to intensify sanctions? [The Europeans] didn't have a clear answer."
Possibility of talks
He said Iran has never been after nuclear weapons and whenever the rights of the Iranian nation are considered in plans and negotiations, "the road is not closed, and the road is again open."
Rouhani expressed gratitude for efforts by President Macron regarding the plan.
European powers were continuing efforts to arrange talks, Rouhani said. Germany, Britain and France were among signatories to Iran's 2015 nuclear pact with world powers, which Trump quit last year.
Rouhani's comments come amid heightened tension between Tehran and Washington following Trump's decision over a year ago to unilaterally pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran. The US has imposed sanctions that have kept Iran from selling its oil abroad and have crippled its economy. Iran has since begun scaling down its commitments to the deal.
A French diplomatic source said on Tuesday that Trump phoned Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN summit but he refused to take the call.
The call happened on September 24, the source said, after Macron had shuttled between the US and Iranian leaders in a bid to arrange a historic encounter that he hoped would reduce the risk of all-out war in the Middle East.
"In New York, up to the last moment, Emmanuel Macron tried to broker contact, as his talks with presidents Trump and Rouhani led him to think contact was possible," the diplomatic source said.
Speculation was abuzz last month that the presidents could meet on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
But Rouhani said he would only hold talks with the US if Trump lifted economic sanctions on Tehran.
Macron used his 48 hours in New York to see Trump three times and Rouhani twice, urging them to engage directly.
The source said Macron made a last-ditch attempt before flying back to Paris, with French technicians installing a secure phone line linking Trump's Lotte hotel and the Millennium, hosting the Iranian delegation.
“We set up the gear with the approval of the Iranians, evidently, because it was happening at their quarters,” the French official said. “The technicians arrived, the Iranians let them set up, they assisted them, there was no problem.”
The plan involved Trump calling at 9 p.m. despite doubts over the Iranian reaction.
Macron went to the Millennium to ensure the phone call took place. Trump made the call, but Rouhani informed the French president he would not take it, the source said.
Macron returned to Rouhani’s quarters later in the evening but the Iranian president was not willing to take part in the call.
"The discussion continued to founder on the Iranians first wanting US sanctions lifted. Donald Trump wants Iran first to make commitments on its nuclear (activities) and ballistic and regional activities," the source said.
French officials also said Trump and Rouhani agreed on a four-point document brokered by Macron in New York last week as a basis for a meeting and relaunching negotiations between the US and Iran.
The document was the result of days of shuttle diplomacy by Macron.
According to the document, Tehran would agree that "Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon" and will “fully comply with its nuclear obligations and commitments and will accept a negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear activities.” It would also “refrain from any aggression and will seek genuine peace and respect in the region through negotiations” — language that mirrors remarks made by Trump before the General Assembly last week.
Also as part of the plan, the United States would agree to “lift all the sanctions reimposed” and “Iran will have full ability to export its oil and freely use its revenues,” according to the text.
Although Iran’s ballistic missile program is not specifically mentioned in the text, French officials said the language on Tehran's regional role was understood by all sides to mean it would be part of negotiations.
“It was clear to all that the negotiation over regional issues would necessarily include their ballistic program,” said a French official familiar with the talks.
Trump agreed to the document in a meeting with Macron on Tuesday afternoon last week at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel, according to French officials. Macron then presented Rouhani with the same document at the Millennium Hilton New York One UN Plaza Hotel.
“He agreed on the principles of the document and he thanked the president because there is the explicit mention of the sanctions [but] he wanted Trump to say before entering the meeting that he was lifting the sanctions,” said the French official.
‘Accurate way’ of talks
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Iranian TV later Wednesday that Macron's four-point plan for talks was "presented in his words and does not contain our viewpoints" but that work would continue.
"It's necessary that these negotiations continue until the issues are presented in a clear way. We will continue these contacts," Zarif said, insisting that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons.
Without elaboration, Zarif said Japan's Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is applying efforts, too.
Zarif said Iran has always wanted security in the Persian Gulf and if its rival Saudi Arabia changes its regional policy, it will find "open arms" from Iran.
"We have always said we are not after tensions with our neighbors," he said.
Press TV, AP, AFP, Politico and Reuters contributed to this story.