White House

Trump signals he’s open to Macron’s idea of a high-stakes meeting with Iran

U.S. president says regime change in Tehran is off the table because ‘it doesn't work’

President Donald Trump attends the first working session of the G7 Summit on Sunday in the French southwestern seaside resort of Biarritz. (Jeff J Mitchell/Pool/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump said Monday he would agree to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over his country’s nuclear arms ambitions and actions in the Middle East — but he again threatened Tehran with “violent force.”

“I think we’re going to do something. It might not be immediately,” Trump said during a joint press conference in Biarritz with French President Emmanuel Macron, who is trying to broker the high-stakes meeting amid tensions between Trump and Rouhani that almost led to American strikes on Iran after Rouhani’s military downed a U.S. military drone aircraft.

Macron used his hosting of a G7 summit in the seaside resort town to try defusing the nuclear tensions, even inviting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for an unannounced visit that took some White House officials completely off guard. Trump and Macron contended Monday that the French president invited Zarif on his own as the host of the summit and cleared it with Trump beforehand.

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While a Trump-Rouhani meeting — likely with Macron as its arbiter — has yet to be scheduled, the French leader said he would like to see it happen within “a few weeks.” But as Iran’s economy continues limping after punishing U.S. sanctions and Iran continues to test missiles and conduct other actions in the region France and the United States call destabilizing, Marcon said Trump and Rouhani, at some point, will have to meet.

But the U.S. leader made clear he would slap some conditions on any possible talks, telling reporters he would agree to negotiations only “if the circumstances are correct.” He also said before any face-to-face session, Iranian leaders must be “good players,” indicating he wants them to stop missile tests and other actions in the Middle East.

Trump then ticked off a list of conditions for any possible deal, including promises from Rouhani to not pursue nuclear weapons, nix its ballistic missile program and agree to extend an existing pledge to not enrich uranium beyond 2025.

Notably, the U.S. leader said his administration is not looking for regime change in Tehran.

“We’re not looking for leadership change. … That doesn’t work,” Trump said, echoing his 2016 campaign rhetoric that dubbed the Afghanistan and Iraq wars as “stupid.”

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But he also flashed his rhetorical hawkishness, again warning Rouhani he is prepared to use “violent force” unless Rouhani agrees to end his pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Meantime, the U.S. president predicted his administration is again moving toward a trade pact with China.

Macron, before leaving the stage for his American counterpart to take questions solo, did warn Trump that “uncertainty” and tensions between the economic giants is only rattling markets and threatening a global economic slowdown.

“We consider it was so important an agreement be found. President Trump clearly showed us his willingness to arrive at an agreement,” the French president said, calling Trump’s praise of an overnight Chinese government spokesman’s statements about reviving talks “positive and encouraging.”

“Things are moving,” Macron said, saying he has concluded like Trump that Beijing “wants a deal.”

“I think that would be something positive for everyone,” he said, noting neither Washington nor Paris are “naive,” meaning a U.S.-China pact must “be a balanced agreement that is good for everyone.”

Trump acknowledged he and his G7 counterparts discussed bringing Russia back into the former G8. He said he might invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to a U.S.-based summit next year even though it will fall months before Election Day.

“I don’t care politically … Whether I’m winning or not, I have to do the right thing,” he said. “A lot of people say having Russia, which is a power, having them inside the room is better than having them outside the room. … My inclination is to say, ‘Yes, they should be in.’ … I do nothing for politics. I do what’s right. … I do think it’s good for the security of the world, the economy of the world.”

About that G7 summit next summer, Trump confirmed he is eyeing his struggling Doral resort in South Florida as a site for the gathering. But he said some experts who contend he would profit from such a summit are wrong because he would not make any money from a gathering for world leaders, whose governments would be charged for lodging, event space, food and other services.

After skipping a Monday G7 session on climate change, Trump boasted to reporters about his energy-related moves, including opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

“It’s tremendous wealth,” he said, noting Europe is purchasing more American liquefied natural gas. (Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy hold four of the group’s seven seats.)

He did not directly say anything about the other six leaders’ stance that climate change is a major threat to the G7 member countries.

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