Iran rejected eight requests from the United States for a meeting of their presidents at the United Nations General Assembly last year, a top Iranian official said Wednesday, The New York Times writes.
The assertion suggests a previously undisclosed level of hostility among top Iranian officials toward President Trump, who has called Iran a nuclear threat, regional menace and global sponsor of terrorism.
White House and State Department officials did not immediately respond to the Iranian assertion, made by President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, at a cabinet meeting reported in Iran’s state-run news media. “Trump asked the Iranian delegation eight times to have a meeting with the president,” Vaezi said.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry previously said an American request for a Trump-Rouhani meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly last September had been declined- and some Iranian state media even claimed that Trump invited Rouhani for dinner during that period.
Since the last General Assembly session, Trump has moved aggressively to isolate Iran, withdrawing the United States from the 2015 nuclear agreement and restoring and strengthening sanctions against the country – defying the wishes of most other United Nations member states, including close American allies. The U.S. President also has included Iran on a list of mostly Muslim countries subjected to a ban on travel to the United States.
While Iranian officials had no warm feelings toward Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, top diplomats from the two countries collaborated closely on the nuclear accord, which eased sanctions in return for Iran’s verifiable pledges to never acquire nuclear weapons, The Times noted.
Obama and Rouhani held a telephone conversation at the end of the 2013 General Assembly as the Iranian leader headed home, becoming the first leaders of their countries to speak in more than three decades and raising hopes at the time that the long-estranged relationship might improve.
Political analysts suggested that Iran’s emphasis on its rejection of Trump reflected an absolute policy of no engagement enforced by Khamenei, who has the final word on such matters and is deeply distrustful of the West — especially the United States, The Times adds.