Iran's supreme leader has rejected direct talks with the US, saying they would not solve problems. The statement casts doubts over dialogue between Tehran and Washington over Iranian nuclear policy.
The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Thursday rejected the idea for one-on-one talks, proposed by US Vice President Joe Biden at the Munich Security Conference in Germany last week.
"Talks will not solve any problems," he told air force commanders, according to excerpts of a speech posted on his website. "You are holding a gun against Iran saying you want to talk. The Iranian nation will not be frightened by the threats," he added in an apparent reference to US sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.
Khamenei has final say in all matters, including Iran's nuclear and foreign policy, and has previously opposed direct negotiations with the US.
"I am not a diplomat but a revolutionary," he said. "The US policies in the Middle East have failed and the Americans are in need of a winning hand. That is bringing Iran to the negotiating table."
Speaking in Munich last week, Vice President Biden said: "We have made it clear at the outset that … we would be prepared to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership."
"That offer stands, but it must be real and tangible, and there has to be an agenda that they're prepared to speak to. We are not just prepared to do it for the exercise," he said.
Iran and six world powers are scheduled later this month to resume nuclear negotiations. Talks ended in a stalemate after three rounds last year, with Tehran pushing for a rollback on Western sanctions in exchange for concessions on its nuclear program.
The US and its allies say Iran's nuclear ambitions are military in nature. Tehran denies the allegations, and says the program is for peaceful, scientific purposes.
Khamenei's remarks came a day after the US tightened sanctions on Iran to further choke off its oil income.
dr/hc (Reuters, AP, AFP)