President Donald Trump left the door open Wednesday to meeting with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly -- even as the United States ramps up the pressure on a regime it accuses of destabilizing the Middle East.
“It’s possible, anything is possible,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked about the possibility of a face-to-face with Rouhani during the gathering later this month.
“We’ll see what happens with Iran. Whether they want to talk or not, that’s up to them, not up to me,” said the US leader, who decided in May to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran.
“Iran is a much different place than when I took over the presidency,” Trump added, describing the country as “in turmoil.”
“When I took office it was just a question of how long until they took over the entire Middle East. Now they are just worrying about their own survival as a country.”
Trump is due to lead September 26 meeting of heads of state of the UN Security Council, with the goal of ramping up pressure on Tehran over its alleged violations of council resolutions.
On assassinating Syria’s Assad
Trump said he did not discuss assassinating Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, which journalist Bob Woodward has reported in his forthcoming book about Trump’s administration, according to
multiple media outlets.
Trump, speaking to reporters during a visit with Kuwaiti ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, also said that if there is a slaughter in the Idlib province of Syria, the United States will be very angry. The Syrian military shelled Idlib, the last stronghold of active rebellion against al-Assad, on Wednesday as a war monitor said insurgents blew up a bridge in anticipation of a government offensive.
Defense Secretary Mattis to keep his job
Trump said Defense Secretary James Mattis will remain in his job, a day after a report, denied by Mattis, that he had made disparaging remarks about the president.
Asked by reporters at the White House whether he was considering replacing Mattis, Trump said: “He’ll stay right there. We’re very happy with him. We’re having a lot of victories.”
According to the book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” by the Watergate reporter Bob Woodward,the Republican president told Mattis he wanted to have Syrian President Bashar al-Assad assassinated after Assad launched a chemical attack on civilians in April 2017.
Mattis told Trump he would “get right on it,” but instead developed a plan for a limited air strike that did not threaten Assad personally, according to the excerpts.
Mattis issued a statement dismissing the book as “a uniquely Washington brand of literature” and saying the contemptuous words about Trump attributed to him “were never uttered by me or in my presence.”
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