- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2019

President Trump said Tuesday he would prefer not to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at upcoming United Nations meetings, as he points fingers at Tehran in the wake of drone attacks on oil reserves in Saudi Arabia.

“I never rule anything out, but I prefer not meeting him,” he told reporters en route to California aboard Air Force One.

His comments come one day after Iranian state-run media reported that Mr. Rouhani had no intention of meeting Mr. Trump at the U.N. General Assembly next week.

Mr. Trump also said he doesn’t think he needs to tap the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve — an option he placed on the table after Saturday’s attacks in Saudi Arabia disrupted oil production and increased crude prices.

“I don’t think I need to, but I’m willing to do it. We’re the undisputed champion of energy,” he said. “We are now way ahead of number two and three, which is Saudi Arabia and Russia.”

“Let people do what they have to do, and they’ve done it,” he said. “But I can really step it up a lot more if we have to. So I don’t believe I need to, but if we want to use strategic oil reserves, I would open them up.”

The Trump administration is attempting to pin down blame for the oil-field attacks over the weekend.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on his way to Saudi Arabia, and Vice President Mike Pence said the administration has no intention of easing off its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

The unrest is occurring in the wake of Mr. Trump’s decision to part ways with his national security adviser, John Bolton, who pushed for a hard line against Iran.

Mr. Trump said he’s narrowed his list of possible replacements to five candidates: Robert O’Brien, Rick Waddell, Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, Fred Fleitz and Keith Kellogg.

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