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Iran’s supreme leader has dismissed a US offer of one-to-one talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech posted online that the US was proposing talks while “pointing a gun at Iran”, the BBC reports. On Saturday, US Vice-President Joe Biden suggested direct talks, separate to the wider international discussions due to take place later this month. But the US widened sanctions on Iran on Wednesday, aiming to tighten a squeeze on Tehran’s ability to spend oil cash. Iran, which is subject to an array of international sanctions, has long argued that its nuclear programme is for energy generation and research. Tehran’s critics believe the government is developing nuclear weapons.
Iran is expected to attend another round of negotiations on 26 February in Kazakhstan.
Mr Biden made his offer of direct talks during a security conference in Germany on the weekend. He said Washington was prepared to hold one-to-one talks with Iran “when the Iranian leadership, supreme leader, is serious”. “That offer stands, but it must be real and tangible and there has to be an agenda that they are prepared to speak to. We are not just prepared to do it for the exercise,” he said. On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akhbar Salehi welcomed the offer, saying Iran had no “red lines”. “But we have to make sure… that the other side comes with authentic intentions with a fair and real intention to resolve the issue,” he said. The minister said Iran would take the offer into “serious consideration”, but the US had to desist from the “threatening rhetoric that everything is on the table”. Iran’s supreme leader, however, said negotiations with the US “would solve nothing”.
Khamenei’s message comes a day after the United States took steps to tighten economic sanctions on Iran, CNN reports. The actions will cut even further the money that Iran can bring in from countries it still sells crude oil to. Some of these countries have been participating in the sanctions under the “significant reductions” clause of U.S. sanctions laws, which means they made significant reductions in the amount of oil they were buying from Iran.
Countries including China, Japan, South Korea and India have reduced purchases enough to avoid U.S. bank sanctions.