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Trump Says US Not Interested in Iran Regime Change

In the combination photo, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, arrives in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, July 23, 2019; President Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn of the White House, July 30, 2019.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's visit to the French city hosting the G-7 summit of world leaders was not a surprise to President Donald Trump, the U.S. leader said Monday.

Trump told reporters in Biarritz as he began a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi that he respected that Zarif came to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and others.

Trump said he was in contact with Macron, "I knew everything he was doing and approved whatever he was doing."

Iran and the United States have been in a state of heightened strained relations since Trump withdrew last year from the international agreement that restrained Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Trump then added more sanctions, particularly targeting Iran's key oil sector, that have badly harmed the country's economy.

He said Monday he is not seeking "regime change" in Iran, but wants the country to "stop terrorism."

"I think they're going to change. I really do. I believe they have a chance to be a very special nation," Trump said.

He specified that any new agreement with Iran would require Iran's nuclear program not be used to develop weapons, and unlike the 2015 agreement, would include limits on Iran's ballistic missile program.

Trump said he was not interested in meeting with Zarif Sunday, believing it to be "too soon" for such talks.

Macron had met with Zarif on Friday in Paris before the G-7 summit opened, but invited him back to the Atlantic coastal town where the summit is being held after tense exchanges among the world leaders about Iran at their Saturday night dinner.

Macron had lunch with Trump Saturday, and, according to French sources, outlined his plan to ease the West's tensions with Iran. The French leader is calling for allowing Iran to export its oil for a short time, fully implement the 2015 agreement, reduce conflict in the Gulf region and open new talks.

Macron has sought to salvage the international agreement, but Trump has accused the French leader of sending "mixed signals" to Iran over possible talks with Washington.

"Iran is in serious financial trouble," Trump said on Twitter earlier this month, because of the U.S. leader's reimposition of sanctions against Iran as he abrogated the accord.

"They want desperately to talk to the U.S.," Trump said, "but are given mixed signals from all of those purporting to represent us, including President Macron of France."