- Special Pages
TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader yesterday signalled openness for the first time to US offers to hold direct talks on his country’s disputed nuclear drive, but voiced pessimism over the chances of a breakthrough.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say in all decisions on Iran’s nuclear programme which the West suspects is cover for a drive for a weapons capability.
“US officials time after time have offered one-on-one talks” on the sidelines of negotiations with the so-called P5+1 group of major powers, Khamenei said in an address broadcast live on state television.
“I am not optimistic about these (direct) talks but I am not opposed to it either,” Khamenei said, while visiting the holy city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran on the occasion of Persian New Year.
The United States — along with Britain, China, France and Russia plus Germany — has been involved in the longrunning P5+1 negotiations with Iran.
The next round of those talks is scheduled for April 5-6 in the Kazakh city of Almaty, after Iran hailed the last round in March as a turning point. A senior US official, speaking in Jerusalem where President Barack Obama is travelling, said that Washington was committed to the P5+1 process.
The official added: “But in that context, we would be open to bilateral discussions.”
Previous calls by Washington for direct dialogue with Tehran had been shot down by Khamenei. The two governments have had no diplomatic relations for more than three decades.
Khamenei did not say what had prompted his change of heart. But he played down the prospects of a breakthrough. AFP