Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dismissed a US call for talks, hours before Washington reimposed new sanctions in line with President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of a 2015 agreement over Iran's nuclear programme.

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on August 6, 2018 shows President Hassan Rouhani giving an interview to the Iranian TV in Tehran.
A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on August 6, 2018 shows President Hassan Rouhani giving an interview to the Iranian TV in Tehran. ( AFP )

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said that Washington's call for new nuclear negotiations at the same time as it reimposed crippling sanctions "doesn't make sense" and is an attempt at "psychological warfare".

The first of two rounds of US sanctions kicked in at 12:01 am (0431 GMT), targeting Iran's access to US banknotes and key industries, including cars and carpets.

Last week, US President Donald Trump said that he was ready to hold talks with his Iranian counterpart Rouhani without preconditions to discuss how to improve relations.

TRT World spoke in London to Babak Emamian, who is chairman of the British Iranian Business Association. 

Washington has said the only way Iran could avert the sanctions would be to agree to new negotiations to abandon its missile and nuclear programmes.

In a televised address late Monday, Rouhani said there could be no talks as long as Washington was reneging on the deal.

"If you're an enemy and you stab the other person with a knife and then you say you want negotiations, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife," he said in an interview on state television.

It was his first response to Trump's offer of talks on a new deal to replace a 2015 pact he abandoned in May, and came as Iran braces for the return of sweeping US sanctions on Tuesday.

"They want to launch psychological warfare against the Iranian nation and create divisions among the people," Rouhani said. 

TRT World's Andrew Hopkins reports from Ankara.

"Biting sanctions"

Hours after the first round of US sanctions came into effect, Trump said in a tweet: "These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!"

"Sanctions of Iranian children"

Rouhani referred to fears that essential supplies such as medicines would be affected when sanctions return.

"Negotiations with sanctions doesn't make sense. They are imposing sanctions on Iranian children, patients and the nation," he added.

He said Iran had "always welcomed negotiations" but that Washington would first have to demonstrate it can be trusted. 

Rouhani implied that if the United States signed up again to the nuclear deal and lifted sanctions, then that could pave the ground for negotiations.

"We are always in favour of diplomacy and talks ... But talks need honesty," Rouhani said. 

"How do they show they are trustworthy? By returning to the JCPOA," he said, using the technical name for the 2015 nuclear deal.

"Trump's call for direct talks is only for domestic consumption in America ahead of elections...and to create chaos in Iran," he added.

Kate Fisher in Washington DC speaks to TRT World about the two sides holding talks on the issue. 

The prospect of sanctions has already hurt Iran's economy, with the currency falling this year and the government cracking down on protests. 

Rouhani called on Iranians to unite in the face of hardship. "There will be pressure because of sanctions, but we will overcome this with unity."

Isolated America 

Trump's withdrawal from the historic multilateral accord in May infuriated his European partners.

European allies tried and failed to persuade Trump not to walk out of the agreement, under which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions. 

Rouhani said Washington would come to rue a move that had been rejected by other countries.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the global reaction to Trump's move showed that the US was diplomatically isolated.

"Of course, American bullying and political pressures may cause some disruption, but the fact is that in the current world, America is isolated," Zarif said in a statement cited by Iran’s ISNA news agency.

He added that US economic sanctions and threats would not force Iran to change its policies.

“Yes, we have been passing through a very critical period of time and US sanctions and extortion may cause some problems,” Zarif said. “But the world is talking about an isolated US, not a lonely Iran.”

Turkey opposes US move

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu last month told American officials it opposed US sanctions on Iran and was not obliged to implement them.

"We do not have to adhere to the sanctions imposed on a country by another country. We don't find the sanctions right either," Cavusoglu told a news conference in Azerbaijan.

"We held meetings with the United States in Ankara and told them openly: Turkey gets oil and gas from Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Iraq. If I don't buy from Iran now, where am I supposed to meet that need from?" Cavusoglu said.

European dismay 

The second phase of US sanctions, which takes effect November 5 and will block Iran's oil sales, is due to cause damage, though several countries including China, India and Turkey have indicated they are not willing to entirely cut their Iranian energy purchases.

EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc, as well as Britain, France and Germany, deeply regretted Washington's move.

"We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran," she said in a statement.

European Commission Spokeswoman, Mina Andreeva, has said that the European Union will try to protect European companies from damages that arise from the US' sanctions. 

'A courageous decision'

But many large European firms are leaving Iran for fear of US penalties, and Trump warned of "severe consequences" against firms and individuals that continued to do business with Iran.

Two countries that have welcomed increased pressure on Iran are its key regional rivals, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman described the renewed sanctions as "a courageous decision which will be remembered for generations."

Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has praised the sanctions and called on other countries to follow.  

Source: TRTWorld and agencies