By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday that Iran wanted sanctions lifted as a precondition to meeting during this week's UN General Assembly, a demand he says he rejected.
"Iran wanted me to lift the sanctions imposed on them in order to meet," Trump said on Twitter. "I said, of course, NO!"
Speculation had been mounting that Trump could hold a sit-down with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, during the UN meetings as a step toward reducing bilateral relations that have been at a fever pitch in recent months.
But Trump returned Thursday to Washington without the meeting taking place.
His decision in May 2018 to withdraw the U.S. from an international agreement aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions set off a series of actions that have included Washington reimposing sanctions it lifted as part of the agreement.
The Trump administration has gone on to impose wave after wave of economic penalties on Tehran, most recently targeting its central bank, as it seeks to bring Iran back to the negotiating table.
Trump made the decision to leave the Iran deal despite objections from all other signatories who warned doing so would lead to increasing possibilities of confrontation.
The remaining parties to the agreement said this week that are still attempting to salvage the deal, though they acknowledged that it is becoming increasingly difficult.
Iran has taken successive steps in violation of the agreement in a bid to pressure the parties to provide it with the financial benefits it was supposed to receive from the pact, but which have been thwarted by U.S. sanctions.
Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign policy chief, said steps Iran has taken thus far are reversible, but called on the Islamic Republic to return to full compliance as she said it is in the security interests of all, as well as the economic interests of Iran.