WASHINGTON Softening his tone, US President Donald Trump today said that he is ready to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani without preconditions to craft a new deal over its nuclear programme after threatening Tehran of grave consequences.
Trump in May pulled the US out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement struck by the Obama administration by calling it the "the worst" deal ever negotiated.
An Olive branch from Trump to Iran marks an abrupt shift in his tone.
Trump had lashed out at Rouhani a week ago in a tweet, saying "Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before."
The White House, however, said that Trump's potential willingness to meet with his Iranian counterpart does not change his administration's intent to ratchet up sanctions against Tehran with the stated goal of "seeking changes in the Iranian government's behaviour."
"I believe in meeting, I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet," Trump said at a White House joint news conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
"I don't know that they're ready yet, they're having a hard time right now. I ended the Iran deal, it was a ridiculous deal. I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet, and I'm ready to meet anytime they want to," he said.
Trump highlighted the benefits of diplomacy, saying he would "meet with anybody".
"I don't do that from strength or from weakness, I think it's an appropriate thing to do. If we could work something out that's meaningful, not the waste of paper that the other deal was, I would certainly be willing to meet," Trump said.
Responding to another question, he said he would meet without any precondition. "No preconditions. If they want to meet, I'll meet anytime they want, anytime they want. Good for the country, good for them, good for us and good for the world. No preconditions. If they want to meet, I'll meet," said the US president.
Iran was one of the topics of discussion between Trump and Conte. "The Prime Minister and I agree that the brutal regime in Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon, never," he said.
"We encourage all nations to pressure Iran to end the full range of its maligned activities. The United States welcomes the partnership of Italy in these vital efforts," Trump said.
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