Iran refuses talks on missile programme

Iran has rejected statements by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that it would be willing to negotiate on its ballistic missile programme.

Pompeo told a cabinet meeting that the administration’s maximum pressure campaign was yielding results, saying: “The Iranian regime is struggling to figure out what they’re going to do with their economy because we’ve been terribly effective. For the first time the Iranians have said that they’re prepared to negotiate about their missile programme […] if we continue to execute our strategy appropriately, we’ll have this opportunity to negotiate a deal that will actually prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”

US President Donald Trump said at the same meeting: “We want to help them. We’ll be good to them, we’ll work with them. We’ll help them in any way we can, but they can’t have a nuclear weapon. We’re not looking, by the way, for regime change. They (also) can’t be testing ballistic missiles.”

The US statements followed Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif’s interview with NBC on Monday when he said: “American weaponry is going into our region, making our region ready to explode. If [US officials] want to talk about our missiles, they need first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles.” The Associated Press reported the interview as: “Top Iran diplomat says talks on ballistic missiles possible.”

But this interpretation was rejected by Iranian diplomats at the UN. Alireza Miryousefi said that he and his colleagues “categorically reject the AP‘s characterisation of Foreign Minister Zarif’s comments to NBC News. Iran’s missiles are absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period.”

Senator Rand Paul has reportedly been appointed as President Trump’s envoy to Iran and been given authorisation to seek to repair Iranian-American relations. This has been interpreted as a possible change of approach and Paul has already proposed a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to extend an olive branch on the President’s behalf.