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Trump says he would ‘certainly meet’ Iranian president

The overture ‘without preconditions’ comes as the US president and Tehran have been escalating their rhetoric.

Donald Trump has said he would “certainly meet” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani without preconditions, if he was willing.

Speaking during a news conference at the White House, the US president said he would meet the Iranians “any time they want to”.

“I’ll meet with anybody,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with meeting.”

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Hassan Rouhani (Iranian Presidency Office/AP)

The overture comes as Mr Trump and Tehran have been escalating their rhetoric after the US president’s May withdrawal from a landmark nuclear accord.

The US has also vowed to boost sanctions until Iran changes its regional policies, including its support for regional militant groups.

It is unclear whether Mr Rouhani has any interest in meeting Mr Trump. The Iranian leader’s chief of staff claimed earlier this month in Iran’s state-owned newspaper that he had rejected eight requests from the White House for one-on-one talks last year.

Mr Rouhani recently warned the US that “war with Iran is the mother of all wars”, prompting an all-caps retort from Mr Trump.

“To Iranian President Rouhani,” he wrote on Twitter. “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH.”

He ended the message with a warning: “BE CAUTIOUS!”

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif fired back with his own message that began: “COLOR US UNIMPRESSED.”

Mr Trump tempered his threatening rhetoric two days later when he said his administration stood ready for Iran to come back to the negotiating table.

“We’re ready to make a real deal, not the deal that was done by the previous administration, which was a disaster,” he said.

Good for the country, good for them, good for us and good for the world. No preconditions. If they want to meet, I'll meet Donald Trump

Mr Trump has long cast himself as a master negotiator who is most effective when he meets his counterparts face-to-face. He pointed to his recent one-on-ones with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin as examples of the benefits of such get-togethers.

“I believe in meeting… speaking to other people, especially when you’re talking about potentials of war and death and famine and lots of other things.”

Asked whether he would set any preconditions for the meetings, he said: “No preconditions, no. If they want to meet, I’ll meet any time they want, any time they want.

“Good for the country, good for them, good for us and good for the world. No preconditions. If they want to meet, I’ll meet.”

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo said recently that the administration was “willing to talk with the regime in Iran, but relief from American pressure will come only when we see tangible, demonstrated and sustained shifts in Tehran’s policies”.

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