WASHINGTON (CN) — Less than two hours after the firing of National Security Advisor John Bolton, known for his hawkish policies on Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Tuesday said President Donald Trump is willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later this month at the U.N. General Assembly.
French President Emmanuel Macron, seeking to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, hopes to arrange the meeting to discuss a $15 billion line of credit for Iran to persuade it to maintain the freeze on its nuclear development.
“The president had made very clear he is prepared to meet with no preconditions,” Pompeo said Tuesday.
The announcement came during a White House press conference with Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Bolton was still scheduled to participate as of Tuesday morning, until Trump announced over Twitter that he had asked for Bolton’s resignation.
Asked if they were surprised by the change, Pompeo said: “I’m never surprised. And I don’t mean that on just this issue.” His candid answer elicited laughter from White House reporters.
Mnuchin started the briefing focusing on an executive order out Tuesday that slapped additional sanctions on individuals or entities with ties to 11 terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda, Hamas, the Islamic State and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force. Pompeo said the order “adds further muscle” to U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. The U.S. has been heavily imposing sanctions on Iran since Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal last year.
Pompeo stated Tuesday morning prior to the briefing that Iran’s lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency raises questions over possible undeclared nuclear material or activities.
“This fits into Iran’s 40-year pattern of lies. The world won’t fall for it. We will deny the regime all paths to a nuclear weapon,” Pompeo said in a tweet.
Denouncing Iran, Bolton also sent out a tweet Tuesday noting the U.N. General Assembly was approaching on Sept. 23.
“Now that we’re two weeks from UNGA, you can be sure Iran is working overtime on deception,” he said.
Out of the block on Tuesday the White House press core looked to Pompeo to answer whether his long-reported disagreements with Bolton were linked to the national security advisor’s firing.
Declining to comment on the inner-workings of the White House, Pompeo conceded that there were many times he disagreed with Bolton.
“The president is entitled to the staff that he wants … when the president makes a decision like this he is well within his rights to do so,” Pompeo said.
Both secretaries also refused to state outright if Bolton’s exit will mean that the Trump administration will now pursue a less hawkish policy towards Iran.
Mnuchin said the “maximum pressure campaign” of applying more sanctions on Iran was “absolutely working.”
Pompeo weighed in later saying Trump sets his own policies.
“I don’t think any leader around the world should make any assumption that because some one of us departs that President Trump’s foreign policy will change in a material way,” Pompeo said.