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Iran's Zarif Says Trump Misled By Advisors Telling Him Regime Will Collapse

U.S. President Donald Trump, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney attend a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Plenary Session at the NATO summit in Watford, December 4, 2019
Munich, Germany, Feb 15, 2020 (AFP) -

International efforts to mediate between Tehran and the U.S. are being thwarted by President Donald Trump's advisors misleading him into thinking the Iranian regime is collapsing, the country's foreign minister said Saturday.

France and Japan have both sought to foster dialogue between the two foes in recent months in a bid to calm spiraling tensions, but without success.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Trump was being badly advised and this had led him to reject overtures from French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"Unfortunately the suggestions by Macron and by Abe and others have all fallen on deaf ears because President Trump has been convinced that we are about to collapse, so he doesn't want to talk to a collapsing regime," Zarif said at the Munich Security Conference.

"I believe President Trump unfortunately does not have good advisors. He's been waiting for the Iranian government's collapse since he withdrew from the nuclear deal."

The nuclear accord that curbed Iran's nuclear program has been slowly crumbling since Trump pulled out in 2018 and reimposed tough sanctions, despite European efforts to save it.

The U.S. and Iran have also been at loggerheads over the Islamic republic's ballistic missile program and its interference in regional conflicts around the Middle East.

Tensions came to a head in January when the US killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad, prompting fears of all-out war.

Zarif said retaliatory rocket attacks by Iran on U.S.-used bases in Iraq soon after the Soleimani killing were the end of the military response.

But he suggested a possible informal response by hinting at "consequences from the population" -- likely a veiled reference to Iran's network of proxy militias across the Middle East.

Zarif said Trump suffered bad advice from his hawkish former national security advisor John Bolton, the architect of Washington's "maximum pressure" strategy on Iran.

"Now today with John Bolton gone unfortunately somebody else is trying to mimic John Bolton and promise the president that killing Soleimani will bring people to dance in the streets of Tehran and Baghdad," Zarif said.

While the Iranian minister did not name those he thought were misleading Trump, he has traded barbs repeatedly with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo.

And his mention of dancing in the street was an apparent reference to a tweet by Pompeo following the killing of Soleimani.