(Persia Digest) - President Trump on Tuesday said he would prefer not to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week.
“I never rule anything out, but I prefer not meeting him,” Trump said aboard Air Force One.
The Hill reports that Trump had previously left the door open to speaking with Rouhani at the gathering of world leaders in New York City next week, but his comments while en route to fundraisers in California appeared to remove that possibility.
The shift comes as the U.S. has indicated Iran was responsible for strikes on Saudi Arabia over the weekend. Trump said Monday in the Oval Office that the U.S. is still assessing the fallout from an attack on two oil sites in Saudi Arabia.
Iran on Monday also ruled out the possibility of a meeting at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly blamed Tehran for the attack in Saudi Arabia.
Trump on Tuesday also told reporters that he doesn’t believe he needs to release oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to stem the damage from the attack but said he is willing to do so if needs change.
“I don’t think I need to, but I’m willing to do it. We’re the undisputed champion of energy. We are now way ahead of number two and three, which is Saudi Arabia and Russia. Let people do what they have to do. And they’ve done it. But I can really step it up a lot more if we have to,” Trump told reporters.
“So I don’t believe I need to, but if we want to use strategic oil reserves, I would open them up,” he continued.
Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office on Monday, Trump said Iran was likely behind the weekend attacks but withheld definitive blame until U.S. officials completed an analysis of the evidence.
Trump also said he wanted to avoid war with Iran, a day after appearing to threaten military action by saying the U.S. was “locked and loaded” after the attacks but awaiting final confirmation from Saudi Arabia.
Trump also said Monday that diplomacy hadn’t been exhausted on Iran, telling reporters, “I know they want to make a deal.”
Trump has ratcheted up economic sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from the six-country pact with Iran meant curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Still, Trump has appeared open to meeting Rouhani in recent weeks and previously said it was possible they would do so at the UNGA next week.
Such a meeting could pave the way for both sides to ease tensions and potentially reach some kind of agreement in the wake of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear accord.
The developments following the drone attack have seemed to exacerbate the tensions between the U.S. and Iran and have raised questions about how the Trump administration would respond to it.
Pompeo is traveling to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to meet counterparts there and discuss the issue.
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