TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s Supreme Leader says he’s not opposed to direct talks with the US to resolve its nuclear standoff with the West.
But Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says he’s not optimistic that such talks would yield results unless Washington stops imposing sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Khamenei says the offer of direct bilateral talks with Iran is an American tactic to deceive the public and impose its will on Tehran.
He says problems could be resolved if the US would stop imposing sanctions, harming Iran’s economy and acting against Iran’s territorial integrity.
Khamenei spoke on Thursday to a crowd in northeastern Iran on the first day of the new Persian calendar year.
The US and its allies fear Iran could ultimately develop a nuclear weapon, a charge Tehran denies.
Eager to reassure Israel, President Barack Obama on Wednesday promised to work closely with Israel and do whatever is necessary to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear arms, “the world’s worst weapons.” He also pledged to investigate whether chemical weapons were used this week in neighboring Syria’s two-year-old civil war.
Obama, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on his first visit to the Jewish state as president, said of Iran’s nuclear ambitions: “We prefer to resolve this diplomatically and there is still time to do so.” But he added that “all options are on the table” if diplomacy falls short.
“The question is, will Iranian leadership seize that opportunity,” he added, noting that Iran’s past behavior indicated that “we can’t even trust yet, much less verify.”
Netanyahu, at Obama’s side during the two leaders’ joint news conference, said that while he appreciated US efforts to thwart Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons through diplomacy and sanctions, those tools “must be augmented by a clear and credible threat of military action.”
“I am absolutely convinced that the president is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “I appreciate that. I appreciate the fact that the president has reaffirmed, more than any other president, Israel’s right and duty to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”
Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report