World News

Bolton says way is open for Iran to enter talks with U.S.

FILE PHOTO: White House national security adviser John Bolton speaks about the political unrest in Venezuela after violence broke out at anti-government protests near Caracas, outside the White House in Washington, U.S., April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, speaking after the United States increased sanctions against Iranian officials, said Washington was still willing to talk to Iran.

“The president has held the door open to real negotiations to completely and verifiably eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, its pursuit of ballistic missile delivery systems, its support for international terrorism and other malign behaviour worldwide,” Bolton said in Jerusalem. “All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door.”

The United States backed out of the 2015 international agreement curbing Iran’s nuclear programme in May last year. Iran denies it is trying to build nuclear weapons.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday targeted Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other Iranian officials with sanctions, increasing pressure on Iran after Iranian forces shot down an unmanned American drone.

Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, told reporters on Monday that Iran would not agree to talks with the United States while it is under the threat of sanctions.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, responding to the sanctions said hawkish politicians close to Trump “despise diplomacy, and thirst for war”.

Bolton was speaking at the start of a meeting with his Israeli and Russian counterparts that was expected to focus on Iran and Syria.

(Adds dropped words ‘pursuit of’ in Bolton quote)

Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Angus MacSwan