Trump downplays Iranian threat to US interests

Washington (AFP) –


President Donald Trump Monday appeared to play down the immediate threat posed by Iran to the United States, while saying he is ready to talk if Tehran takes the first step.

Trump's latest comments appeared aimed at dialing back fears that his administration is pushing for war.

"We have no indication that anything's happened or will happen," he told reporters at the White House when asked about the Iranian threat to US interests, adding: "We have no indication that they will."

Trump repeated earlier threats that Iran would face "great force" if it took aim at the United States. However, he said he would welcome talks.

"If they call we will certainly negotiate, but that is going to be up to them," he said. "I only want them to call if they are ready."

Trump has blown hot and cold over Iran, leading many in Washington to fear he is rushing to conflict, but then indicating that he has no desire to embroil the United States in another distant war.

On Sunday, he upped the temperature with a tweet that warned of "the official end of Iran" should the country attack the United States.

Earlier Monday, Trump blasted a media report, which he did not identify, that he said had falsely claimed his government was trying to initiate talks with Tehran.

"Iran will call us if and when they are ever ready. In the meantime, their economy continues to collapse - very sad for the Iranian people!" Trump tweeted.

The US government has piled the pressure on Iran by ripping up a hard-fought international deal to steer the country away from its nuclear ambitions and attempting to shut off the oil exports crucial to Iran's economy.

It has also sent an aircraft carrier and bomber planes to the region, citing Iranian threats to US interests.