Iran rules out talks unless US changes ‘behavior’

Iran rules out talks unless US changes ‘behavior’

Tehran spokesman blasts ‘word games’ after hawkish Pompeo floats negotiations when the Islamic republic starts ‘behaving as a normal nation’

Abbas Mousavi, spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, gives a press conference in the capital Tehran on May 28, 2019. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)
Abbas Mousavi, spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, gives a press conference in the capital Tehran on May 28, 2019. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Tehran on Sunday ruled out talks with Washington unless it changes its “general behavior,” after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his country was ready for negotiations with Iran.

“The change of the general behavior and actions of the United States of America regarding the Iranian nation is the criterion” required for any talks to take place, said foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran ignores word games and the use of new language to express secret aims,” said Mousavi.

“Mr. Pompeo’s emphasis on maintaining maximum pressure on Iran reflects the continuation of the same faulty behavior that must be corrected,” the spokesman said, quoted in a ministry statement.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends a press conference at the closing a bilateral meeting in Switzerland, June 2, 2019. (Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Pompeo, who is considered a hawk on Iranian issues, appeared to soften the US stance somewhat on Sunday following weeks of escalating tensions with Tehran.

“We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions,” Pompeo said in Switzerland, which in the absence of US-Iranian diplomatic ties represents Washington’s interests in the Islamic republic.

“We are ready to sit down with them,” he said.

But Pompeo appeared to immediately back-pedal on the offer of conditions-free talks, stating that Washington was “certainly prepared to have [a] conversation when the Iranians will prove they are behaving as a normal nation.”

Pompeo was in Switzerland as part of a four-country European tour dominated by increasing tensions between the US and Iran. The two sides have both said they are willing to talk, but at the same time defense officials from the two adversaries stoked tensions by warning each other over military responses.

The Trump administration’s hard-line approach with Iran began with the US withdrawal from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers last year and continued with punishing economic sanctions on the Shiite state.

Last month, Iran announced that if a way could not be found within 60 days to shield it from US sanctions targeting its economy and oil industry, it would increase its enrichment of uranium beyond the purity allowed under the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

A few days later, Tehran said it had increased its uranium-enrichment production capacity, though only of the lower-enriched uranium permitted by the agreement.

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