National Security

Iran open to talks on missile program: report

Iran signaled to the U.S. and five other world powers during a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last month that it may be open to talks regarding its ballistic missile program, according to a new report citing Western and Iranian officials.

Reuters reported Friday that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested to counterparts from the other countries involved in the nuclear deal that Tehran was willing to discuss some aspects of its missile program amid threats from President Trump to decertify the nuclear deal.

"During their meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly last month, Iran told members of the [world powers] that it could discuss the missile program to remove concerns," an Iranian source told Reuters.

The U.N.-backed nuclear deal is aimed at curbing the country's nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief. But Tehran has said that it intends to continue developing its ballistic missile program as a matter of defense.

The Trump administration has said that doing so violates the 2015 agreement reached between the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia with Tehran, and has imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran. Iran, however, has said the missile development does not violate the deal.

A former Pentagon official told Reuters that Iran had put "feelers" out to the U.S. and other powers, regarding its missile program.

One U.S. official with knowledge of the talks said Zarif's offer was nothing new, and that he was simply recycling proposals that "have been lying dormant on the table for some time," according to Reuters.

Speaking before the U.N. General Assembly last month, Trump railed against the Iran agreement, calling it "the worst deal ever negotiated."

While he has already recertified Iran's compliance with the deal twice since taking office, Trump now faces an Oct. 15 deadline to decide whether he will say Tehran is abiding by the terms of the agreement.

All parties to the deal have acknowledged that Iran is technically in compliance with its terms. But the Trump administration has argued that Tehran is in violation of the spirit of the accord.

The president is reportedly planning on decertifying the deal - a move that would give Congress 60 days to determine whether to reinstate sanctions against Iran removed under the agreement.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have both urged the president not to ditch the accord. Trump, however, has long criticized the deal and has told aides that he does not want to recertify it again.

Trump said Thursday night that a decision on whether he will decertify Iran's compliance with the agreement will come "very shortly."

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