President Donald Trump said there’s “always a chance” of the U.S. taking military action in Iran, though he’d prefer to engage verbally with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
“There’s always a chance. Do I want to? No, I’d rather not, but there’s always a chance,” Trump said when asked about the prospect of conflict in an interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. “I’d much rather talk.”
The comments come amid heightened tension between the two countries, after Trump blamed the Islamic Republic for recent violence in the Middle East and ordered 1,500 U.S. troops to the region last month. The small deployment indicated that Trump’s administration wants to avoid fueling fears of another war, though the president made it clear it wasn’t off the table entirely.
Trump said “of course” he’d be willing to talk to Rouhani, pointing out that the Iranian president had himself said he wasn’t looking for conflict with the U.S. “The only thing is we can’t let them have nuclear weapons,” Trump said.
Pentagon officials believe Iran was behind recent attacks on oil tankers, a Saudi oil pipeline and the Green Zone diplomatic compound in Bagdhad, though the U.S. hasn’t published evidence for the claims.
The United Arab Emirates and other countries are investigating the attacks on the ships, Saudi Arabian Foreign Affairs Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said last month.
“The Americans need to stay away,” Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday. “Where they’ve gone there’s been war, killings, sedition, and humiliation,” he said, adding: “If they get close, we know how to act, we know what needs to be done.”
Trump’s tougher stance toward Iran — the U.S. pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord signed with global powers and reimposed sanctions — has strained relations with allies in Europe, including the U.K. At their press conference in London Tuesday, Prime Minister Theresa May said while the two governments agreed to work together to avoid escalation by Iran, they “differ on the means of achieving it.”
The nuclear accord capped Iran’s nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief. The agreement, the signatories said, would prevent Tehran from building the nuclear weapons that some Western powers and Israel feared were the end goal of its atomic program. Iran says its nuclear work is solely aimed at meeting civilian energy and medical needs.
May said the U.K., which is part of EU efforts to protect European trade with the Islamic Republic after the U.S. reimposed economic sanctions, still stands by the nuclear deal. Trump criticized the accord — and Iran — again in the ITV interview.
Iran was “extremely hostile when I first came into office,” he said. It was “terrorist nation number one in the world at that time, and probably maybe are today.”
More must-read stories from Fortune:
—Why Alibaba’s Hong Kong IPO may signal a Chinese retreat from Wall Street
—Italy is threatening to repeat the Greek debt crisis—but with higher stakes
—China is creating a “Greater Bay Area” to rival Silicon Valley
—The Indian elections were influenced by immigrants in the U.S.
—Listen to our new audio briefing, Fortune 500 Daily
Catch up with Data Sheet, Fortune‘s daily digest on the business of tech.