Donald Trump seemed to jettison threats of impending war with Iran on Monday, saying he was willing to meet the country's leaders without precondition, a dramatic about-face by the enigmatic U.S. president.
"I would meet with Iran if they wanted to meet", Trump said at a joint White House press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, "I don't know if they are ready yet".
"No preconditions, no. If they want to meet, I'll meet anytime they want, anytime they want", he said.
The overture comes as Mr Trump and Tehran have been escalating their rhetoric after the United States president's May withdrawal from a landmark nuclear accord.
"I'd meet with anybody".
"Respect for the great nation of Iran, reduction in hostilities, USA returning to the nuclear deal... How can we trust this country when it withdraws unilaterally from the nuclear deal?"
Trump said a future meeting with Iranian leaders would be useful "if we could work something out that is meaningful, not the waste of paper the other deal is", a reference to the agreement reached under his predecessor Barack Obama in 2015 with worldwide support.
"There can be no negotiations with the Americans raising the issue of talks from the position of power", he was quoted as saying on the website of the Iranian parliament, calling Trump's decision to pull out of the nuclear deal the "biggest blow to diplomacy". The administration is set to begin reimposing sanctions that had been lifted under the 2015 deal next month and has been ratcheting up a pressure campaign on the Islamic republic that many suspect is aimed at regime change. If they want to meet, I'll meet anytime they want, anytime they want.
Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 nuclear deal in May, and is set to reimpose full sanctions in two stages in August and November.
Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the president's National Security Council, later said in a statement that the US would not be lifting any sanctions or re-establishing diplomatic and commercial relations until "there are tangible, demonstrated, and sustained shifts in Tehran's policies".
In spite of fierce verbal exchanges between Tehran and Washington in the recent weeks, Iranian authorities have kept the door to diplomacy open.
According to foreign exchange website Bonbast.com, the Iranian rial plunged to 111,500 against one United States dollar on the unofficial market, down from about 97,500 rials on Saturday.
Trump has repeatedly shown a willingness to cast traditional diplomatic protocol aside and meet with leaders shunned by other administrations, including North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.