White House national security adviser John Bolton says "regime change" in Iran is not currently part of the administration's policy, despite his past suggestions that the United States should push for a new government in Tehran.
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"That's not the policy of the administration. The policy of the administration is to make sure that Iran never gets close to deliverable nuclear weapons," Bolton told ABC television's This Week program on May 13.
On CNN's State of the Union program, Bolton played down his previous remarks, made before he joined the administration.
"I've written and said a lot of things over the years when I was a complete free agent," Bolton told CNN.
Bolton was tapped by President Donald Trump in March to replace H.R. McMaster and is considered a hard-liner on many international matters, including Iran.
He emphasized on CNN that his job now was to advise Trump and that the president would make the policy decisions.
"The circumstances I'm in now is that I'm the national security adviser to the president. I'm not the national security decision-maker. He [Trump] makes the decisions, and the advice I give him is between us," Bolton said.
Bolton told Fox News in January that the United States should increase economic pressure on Tehran and provide support to government opponents.
"There's a lot we can do to, and we should do it. Our goal should be regime change in Iran," he told Fox at a time when he was with the American Enterprise Institute think tank.
In 2015, he wrote an opinion piece published in The New York Times calling for air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities. A year later, he called for regime change while he was reportedly under consideration to be Trump's secretary of state.
During his CNN interview, Bolton also said that "it's possible" sanctions could be placed on European companies that continue to do business with Iran after the U.S. pullout from the 2015 nuclear deal.
"It's possible," Bolton said. "It depends on the conduct of other governments."
The nuclear deal provided Iran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
But Trump on May 8 withdrew from the accord, saying Tehran had violated the "spirit" of the deal by testing ballistic missiles and supporting extremist activity in the region.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for civilian use and denies supporting extremism.
With reporting by Reuters, ABC, and CNN
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