Iran’s Supreme Leader Rules Out Talks With U.S. Ahead of UN Meet

Arsalan Shahla

(Bloomberg) -- Iran won’t negotiate with the U.S. at any level, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday, dampening speculation a meeting between the countries’ presidents is possible despite attacks on critical Saudi oil infrastructure.

“Sometimes they say negotiations without any precondition and sometimes with 12 conditions,” Khamenei said in comments published by the semi-official ISNA news agency. “Such statements either come from their disheveled policies or are a ploy to confuse the other side.”

Talks with the U.S., in New York or elsewhere, would amount to victory for Donald Trump’s so-called maximum pressure policy, the cleric said.

The U.S. has imposed swingeing sanctions on Iran’s economy -- especially its oil sales -- since exiting the 2015 nuclear deal last year in an effort to curtail Tehran’s regional influence and military capabilities.

The confrontation has sporadically convulsed the Gulf, with the weekend strikes on the heart of the Saudi oil industry ratcheting tensions to new heights.

While Trump hasn’t directly blamed Iran for the attacks, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has.

Two U.S. officials said the location of the damage and weapons used suggest the attack was not launched by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who claimed responsibility and have carried out numerous strikes on Saudi territory during a four-year war with a military coalition led by the kingdom. Iran has denied involvement.

Trump hasn’t ruled out a possible meeting with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani when both are in New York this month for the annual United Nations General Assembly.

Trump tweeted on Sunday that the “Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, ‘No Conditions’ That is an incorrect statement (as usual!).” But officials including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have told reporters publicly that Trump is willing to take a meeting with no conditions.

The prospect of a strike on Iran in retaliation for an attack that didn’t target Americans or even a country with which the U.S. has a defense treaty is proving divisive in Washington. Trump said the U.S. is prepared for any conflict, but that Saudi Arabia would need to play a significant part in any action.

--With assistance from Abbas Al Lawati.

To contact the reporter on this story: Arsalan Shahla in Dubai at ashahla@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Shaji Mathew at shajimathew@bloomberg.net, ;Lin Noueihed at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net, Mark Williams

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