Trump willing to meet with Iran’s Rouhani at UN, Pompeo says

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (Bloomberg pic)

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump is willing to meet with Iran’s Hassan Rouhani when world leaders gather at the United Nations this week, said the top US diplomat, who also said that Russia hasn’t been helpful to US foreign policy objectives.

“He’s happy to talk with folks at any time,” US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a pre-recorded interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” one of two planned appearances on Sunday political talk shows. “The president’s been pretty clear about that.”

Trump will address the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday and host a meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday. Depending on the agenda that Trump sets for the security council meeting, Iran’s president may be in the room.

White House officials said last week that Trump would focus the meeting on halting the spread of weapons of mass destruction. That was until Friday, when the president tweeted that he would concentrate on Iran.

The difference between the possible topics is crucial. Under UN rules, Iran, which isn’t currently a member of the Security Council, can attend a meeting if it’s going to be the main subject of discussion. It raises the prospect of an encounter, chance or otherwise, between Trump and Rouhani.

Action Group

Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, signed in 2015 with Iran and five other countries. He plans to back up the controversial exit this week by telling European counterparts that the nuclear accord is failing, and that European companies are opting to leave Iran to avoid risking their US business ties, according to administration officials.

Pompeo has been a chief proponent of Trump’s efforts to confront Iran. After announcing a dozen conditions earlier this year that Iran must meet to be considered a “normal” country, Pompeo in August unveiled the creation of an “action group” of US officials to coordinate efforts to increase economic and political pressure on the Islamic Republic.

Asked about having a constructive dialog with Iran, Pompeo said on NBC that it doesn’t seem likely. Iran’s behaviour, he said, “wouldn’t indicate any intention to change the fundamental challenge” that the Islamic Republic presents to the world.

Pompeo also discussed US-Russian relations, saying that Moscow has “not proven helpful” on Trump’s foreign policy objectives.

“They have not proven helpful in the Ukraine, in Syria,” he said, according to an advance transcript provided by the network. As the US tries to “push back against Russia’s malign activity around the world, the president’s tried to develop a relationship and change that, but we’ve not been successful, at least to date.”