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Rouhani Ready To Talk With Trump An Hour After Lifting Sanctions

A handout picture made provided by president office shows, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani speaks during the insurance conference in the capital of Tehran on December 4 2019. (Photo by HO / President office / AFP))

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani says If the President of United States agrees to lift all the sanctions imposed on Iran, he will be ready to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump within an hour.

Rouhani who was speaking at a conference on "insurance and development" in Iran on Wednesday December 4, said that he made the same offer while he was in New York in September to take part at the UN General Assembly meeting.

According to Rouhani, world leaders at the time agreed with him that what he said was logical, however, he did not name any leader.

In a possible reference to French President Emmanuelle Macron, Rouhani said, "A head of state suggested that let us lift the sanctions right away and Iran and the United States Presidents can plan a meeting for two days later. That was when I said if sanctions are lifted I will be ready to meet in an hour. All the P5+1 leaders were in New York and we could have held a meeting."

The P5+1, Russia, China, UK, France, the United States and Germany made a nuclear agreement with Iran in 2015. Based on the landmark agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activity and world powers lifted the International sanctions that were imposed on Iran.

Rouhani added, "The Americans said let us meet first and discuss the sanctions later. They were questioning Iranians' intelligence. But we will not allow anyone to cheat us in the same way that we won't cheat anyone."

"Even today, our friends are mediating" between Iran and the United States, said Rouhani, adding "As soon as the United States lifts the wrong, oppressive and terroristic sanctions, the P5+1 leaders can meet. We have no problem with that."

Rouhani remembered the importance of his conversation over the phone with former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2013. He said: "The brief conversation took the negotiations forward like a locomotive. We set the frameworks. Obama suggested three topics for negotiations. I told him we were not prepared to talk about those matters, but if the nuclear issue is resolved, then we will put the other two matters on the agenda of the talks."

Rouhani was possibly sending the message that still, Iran's regional ambitions and missile development programs could be part of the agenda of talks between Tehran and Washington if the derailed nuclear agreement is put back on track.

He also remembered that the conversation was followed by the first meeting between Iran and the United States' chief diplomats after 40 years. "The nuclear deal could have not been accomplished within 100 days without contacts at that level," Rouhani said

U.S. President Donald Trump has said in various occasions that he is prepared to negotiate with his Iranian counterpart without preconditions. Rouhani has also said in numerous occasions that he welcomes negotiations, although he has conditioned such negotiations to America's repenting or returning to the nuclear deal it has left in 2018 or lifting the sanctions.

However, there is another key player, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in Iran's foreign policy and other matters. Khamenei has forbidden any negotiation with any U.S. official; and executive officials such as Rouhani cannot take any step in the direction of negotiating with the U.S. without Khamenei's permission.

Khamenei has made it clear that he had authorized the negotiations in 2013 and had launched a back channel for the negotiations in 2011 via Oman in a move he described as "heroic flexibility." However, there is no indication that Khamenei is prepared to show that flexibility once again.

It is still not clear why Rouhani has made the remarks about negotiations with America on Wednesday as he is aware of Khamenei's hardline stance. He may have been simply reminding the nation and Khamenei of his past achievements now that his poorly implemented gas price and targeted subsidy policies have tarnished his image.