Iran: U.S. is 'holding a gun' to us

Sanctions make nuclear talks with America futile says supreme leader

By Nasser Karimi

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 7 2013 9:00 p.m. MST

Despite the tensions, American proposals for direct dialogue with Iran received a cautious welcome Sunday from Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. But with caveats: Washington needs to quiet its "threatening rhetoric" for the offer to get real consideration by Tehran's ruling clerics.

In his statement released following a meeting with air force commanders, Khamenei said: "They say the ball is in Iran's court. The ball is in your court."

"You have to be accountable and explain what it means to offer talks while simultaneously continuing pressure and threats."

Washington has indicated in the past that it's prepared to talk directly with Iran on the nuclear issue, but so far nothing has come of it.

Meanwhile, the talks between Iran and a powerful six-nation group — the permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany — have made little headway. Three rounds last year ended in stalemate with Tehran pushing for a rollback of Western sanctions in exchange for any key concessions on its nuclear program.

Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, urged Iran to show "maximum flexibility" when the negotiations resume Feb. 26 in Kazakhstan.

"Time cannot be lost," he said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency. "A lot of time was missed and we would like to encourage our Iranian friends to take these talks very seriously."

The U.S. and Iran broke ties after the storming of the American Embassy in Tehran in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iranian militants held 52 American hostages for 444 days.

"I am not a diplomat. I am a revolutionary and I express my words honestly," Khamenei was quoted as saying.

He noted that some factions inside Iran seek direct U.S. talks because of their "naivety." He did not elaborate, but called for the need to challenge U.S. efforts to return to "domination" over Iran — a reference to the pro-Western shah who was toppled during an Islamic revolution.

"Talk is meaningful if it is based on goodwill, equal standing and when both sides do not want to apply tricks," said Khamenei. "Talk as a tactic, a gesture of superpower, is only a deceptive move."

Khamenei, however, has shown some flexibility in the past over contacts with Washington. Iran and the U.S. have taken part in talks regarding Iraq and Afghanistan.

An Iran-Egypt alliance?

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tried Thursday to entice Egypt into a new alliance that could reshape the turbulent Middle East, speaking of forging "comprehensive" and "unfettered" relations after decades of distrust.

A warming of ties between the two regional heavyweights could have uncomfortable repercussions for the U.S. and its wealthy Gulf allies, giving Iran a foothold to spread its influence in Egypt. In turn, Egypt could gain an avenue to influence the fate of Syria, a key ally of Iran, as well as economic benefits.

The Iranian president arrived in Egypt on Tuesday to attend a two-day Islamic summit hosted by Egypt's president, Islamist Mohammed Morsi.

Ahmadinejad's visit is the first by an Iranian president in 30 years and he used it to launch a charm offensive to woo Egyptians and their leadership. He offered to extend cash-strapped Egypt a credit line and investments.

— Associated Press

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