Iran's Khamenei rebuffs U.S. offer of direct talks

DUBAI Thu Feb 7, 2013 3:12pm EST

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, in this file photo taken August 30, 2012. REUTERS/Hamid Forootan/ISNA

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, in this file photo taken August 30, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Hamid Forootan/ISNA

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's highest authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Thursday slapped down an offer of direct talks made by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden last week, saying they would not solve the problem between them.

"Some naive people like the idea of negotiating with America, however, negotiations will not solve the problem," Khamenei said in a speech to officials and members of Iran's air force carried on his official website.

"If some people want American rule to be established again in Iran, the nation will rise up to face them," he said.

"American policy in the Middle East has been destroyed and Americans now need to play a new card. That card is dragging Iran into negotiations."

Khamenei made his comments just days after Biden said the United States was prepared to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership. "That offer stands but it must be real and tangible," Biden said in Munich on Saturday.

With traditional fiery rhetoric, Khamenei lambasted Biden's offer, saying that since the 1979 revolution the United States had gravely insulted Iran and continued to do so with its threat of military action.

"You take up arms against the nation of Iran and say: 'negotiate or we fire'. But you should know that pressure and negotiations are not compatible and our nation will not be intimidated by these actions," he added.

Relations between Iran and the United States were severed after the overthrow of Iran's pro-Western monarchy in 1979 and diplomatic meetings between officials have since been very rare.

ALL OPTIONS STILL 'ON THE TABLE'

Currently U.S.-Iran contact is limited to talks between Tehran and a so-called P5+1 group of powers on Iran's disputed nuclear program which are to resume on February 26 in Kazakhstan.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland brushed off Khamenei's remarks and urged Iran to show up in Almaty "prepared to discuss real substance" either in a group setting or in bilateral talks.

"As the Iranians well know, the ball is in the Iranians' own court," she told reporters.

"We've always said that action on the Iranian side would be matched by action on our side, so it's really up to Iran to engage if it wants to see sanctions eased," said Nuland, adding that failure to address the nuclear concerns would bring more pressure on Tehran.

Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said he was skeptical the negotiations in Almaty could yield a result, telling Israel Radio that the United States needed to demonstrate to Iran that "all options were still on the table".

Israel, widely recognized to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East, has warned it could mount a pre-emptive strike on Iranian atomic sites. Israel says the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran threatens its existence, given Tehran's refusal to recognize the Jewish state.

"The final option, this is the phrasing we have used, should remain in place and be serious," said Meridor.

"The fact that the Iranians have not yet come down from the path they are on means that talks ... are liable to bring about only a stalling for time," he said.

Iran maintains its nuclear program is entirely peaceful but Western powers are concerned it is intent on developing a weapons program.

Many believe a deal on settling the nuclear issue is impossible without a U.S.-Iranian thaw. But any rapprochement would require direct talks addressing many sources of mutual mistrust that have lingered since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and the subsequent U.S. embassy hostage crisis in Tehran.

Moreover, although his November re-election may give President Barack Obama a freer hand to pursue direct negotiations, analysts say Iran's own presidential election in June may prove an additional obstacle to progress being made.

(Additional reporting by Dan Williams, and Paul Eckert in Washington; Editing by William Maclean, Jon Boyle and Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (46)
SvenBolin wrote:
The US is clearly under pressure. The sanctions aren’t working and the international community is withdrawing its support for unilateral illegal sanctions.
“The European Council was ordered to remove Bank Saderat from its sanctions list following legal proceedings, a statement by the bank’s public relations office said on Wednesday.”
Also Iranian Bank Mellat had its sanctions annulled last week.
Time to rethink USA!

Feb 07, 2013 5:52am EST  --  Report as abuse
kenradke11 wrote:
Khamenei and his unholy henchmen will have n o choice or they will face the consequences of their failure to co-operate.I loathe the day when the Green party brings another uprising in Iran. Admenijad is not in my eyes a president and I will never ever re-consider.They will pay when the greens gird their loins and hit the streets this time with weapons to bring down the regime. They talk about other countries meddling in their affairs but they do the same….hypocrites!!

Feb 07, 2013 6:26am EST  --  Report as abuse
Protect2000 wrote:
What a shame Mr VP. This is just disgrace to your office to go to a Satanic nation with Olive branch. Don’t you know that it is a rogue nation and that these folks would only listen to firepower? You have let the country down.

Feb 07, 2013 7:59am EST  --  Report as abuse
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