Trump unlikely to meet with Iranian leaders at UN

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Trump would take a confrontational approach to Iran at the UN meeting in New York.
Tuesday 25/09/2018
US President Donald Trump waves as he departs following a signing ceremony for the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement on the sidelines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York, US, September 24, 2018. (Reuters)
US President Donald Trump waves as he departs following a signing ceremony for the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement on the sidelines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York, US, September 24, 2018. (Reuters)

WASHINGTON - Top US officials said it is highly unlikely that US President Donald Trump will meet with Iranian leaders at the UN General Assembly and that Trump will instead emphasise the global security threat posed by Tehran.

In a series of television interviews, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Trump would take a confrontational approach to Iran when he arrives at the UN meeting in New York.

“What you're going to see in the [UN] Security Council meeting is he’s going to talk about threat that Iran has on the rest of the world,” Haley said of Trump in an interview September 23 with ABC News.

“We're going to be really tough on Iran,” Haley added in an interview the same day with CBS News. “We're not giving them a pass.”

Asked on ABC whether Trump would meet with Iranian President Hassan Rohani, Haley replied: “No. I mean, Rohani hasn’t done anything to warrant a meeting. He has to stop all of his bad behaviour before the president’s going to think he’s serious about wanting to talk.”

In an interview on NBC News, Pompeo said Trump would only meet with Iranian leaders at the United Nations “if there’s a constructive dialogue to be had” but that a meeting “doesn’t seem likely. Their behaviour wouldn’t indicate any intention to change the fundamental challenge that Iran presents to the world.”

Pompeo downplayed Rohani’s importance, saying in an interview on Fox News that “the leader of the country is Ayatollah [Ali] Khamenei. That’s who's running the show in Iran.”

The comments by Haley and Pompeo squelch the possibility of a meeting that Trump raised when he said he was open to direct dialogue with Iranian leaders and set up a likely confrontation when Trump speaks at the General Assembly on September 25.

Trump has taken an aggressive approach towards Iran by withdrawing the United States from the nuclear deal signed in 2015 and reinstating economic sanctions.

Pompeo said on CNN that the United States might further punish Iran in response to recent attacks on US diplomatic facilities in Baghdad and in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

“We have told the Islamic Republic of Iran that using a proxy force to attack an American interest will not prevent us from responding against the prime actor,” Pompeo said in a September 21 interview. “That is, we will not let Iran get away with using a proxy force to attack an American interest. Iran will be held accountable for those incidents.”

Pompeo’s threat was sharper than the Trump administration’s initial statement on the incidents, which stated: “Iran did not act to stop these attacks by its proxies in Iraq, which it has supported with funding, training and weapons.”

Pompeo dismissed statements by Iranian leaders blaming the United States for an attack by militants in Ahvaz that killed at least 29 people. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that the militants were “recruited, trained and paid by a foreign regime.”

“When you have a security incident at home, blaming others is an enormous mistake,” Pompeo said on Fox News, “and I wish Zarif would focus on keeping his own people secure rather than causing insecurity all around the world.”