Iran wants Trump to take first step
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a cabinet meeting.- AP
Tehran - Trump had said less than 24 hours earlier he was ready to meet Rouhani within weeks.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday told the United States to "take the first step" by lifting all sanctions against his country, dampening down the likelihood of meeting US counterpart Donald Trump.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the prospects for such a meeting were "unimaginable" even if the United States rejoins a landmark nuclear deal with Iran.
Trump had said less than 24 hours earlier he was ready to meet Rouhani within weeks, in a potential breakthrough reached during a G-7 summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz.
Iran's economy has been battered by US sanctions imposed since Trump in May last year unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic republic and world powers.
"You must retreat from all illegal, unjust and wrong sanctions against the nation of Iran," Rouhani said. "The key for positive change is in the hands of Washington," he said, because Iran had already ruled out ever doing what worries the US the most - building an atomic bomb.
"This concern has already been removed" through a fatwa issued in 2003 by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he added.
"We don't (intend to) make an atomic bomb... our military doctrine is based on conventional arms," said Rouhani. "So take the first step. Without this step, this lock will not be unlocked."
In Biarritz, French President Emmanuel Macron had said the "conditions for a meeting" between Trump and Rouhani "in the next few weeks" had been created through intensive diplomacy.
News of the potential meeting was welcomed by financial markets. "Expectations are ... rising that tensions in the Gulf can be de-escalated following President Macron's overtures to broker a meeting between Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart," noted AxiTrader analyst James Hughes.
The rial was higher at about 112,000 to the dollar, up from 117,500 a week ago under the unofficial rate in Iran's capital, according to the Bonbast website that monitors exchange rates.