Iran Administration Confirms Zarif Invited to Meet Trump

Spokesman for the Iranian Administration Ali Rabiei confirmed recent media reports that said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had received an unexpected invitation to meet US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Tehran on Sunday, Rabiei described a recent move by the US government to impose sanctions on Zarif as “unprecedented” in the history of diplomacy throughout the world.

 “It is ridiculous to claim (they want) to negotiate (with Iran) and at the same time they sanction the country's foreign minister,” he stated.

“During a meeting with a (US) senator, they invited him to meet (Trump) and immediately (after that), they sanction him,” the spokesman said, adding, “Zarif is in charge of foreign policy and in charge of public diplomacy and all kinds of diplomacy and all diplomatic paths (of dealing with Iran) pass through his path.”

In a report on Friday, the New Yorker said, “Last month, amid a rapid-fire escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, received an unexpected invitation—to meet President Donald Trump in the Oval Office. The diplomatic overture was made by Senator Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, during a meeting with Zarif in New York on July 15th, according to American and Iranian sources and a well-informed diplomat.”

On Wednesday, the US Department of State said Washington has designated Zarif for acting on behalf of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei. The US president had issued an executive order on June 24, imposing sanctions on the Leader and his office and authorizing sanctions on others associated with Ayatollah Khamenei.

The senior Iranian diplomat has dismissed the US move, saying that being designated by the US would not affect him since he has ho properties outside Iran.

“We know that calling for dialog & peace is an existential threat to B-Team. And since reason for designating me is my words, would ‘US persons’ need OFAC license to ‘engage’ with me by reading my writings or listening to interviews?” Zarif said in a Twitter post.

Trump had also already been snubbed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani— eight times.

The US president unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and has since been following what he calls a campaign of “maximum pressure” on the country. In speeches at the UN General Assembly, where he has requested to meet with the Iranian president, he has used offensive language to talk about the Iranian government. He has also reportedly called Iran “a terrorist nation.”

Iranian and American top leaders have never met since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Zarif is the only high-ranking Iranian official to have briefly met with a US president, former President Barack Obama. Rouhani also once spoke with Obama on the phone.

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