Talks with US only if sanctions are dropped: Iran's Khamenei
Jay Deshmukh

TEHRAN — Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that any talks with arch-foe the United States would take place only if Washington drops "sanctions and threats" against Tehran.

In a speech on state television, the all-powerful Khamenei also blamed Washington for Iran's defiant move to enrich uranium to 20 percent, the most controversial aspect of its nuclear programme.

"The respected president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and others have said that we are ready for negotiation. It is right. But not with America," Khamenei told an audience of senior Iranian officials, including Ahmadinejad, in the speech.

"The reason is that America does not enter the field honestly as a normal negotiator. They should drop the face of a superpower, they should drop threats, they should drop sanctions and they should not set a goal for negotiation. Then we are ready."

Washington, with whom Tehran has had no diplomatic ties for more than three decades, led world powers on June 9 in imposing new UN sanctions against Iran for continuing to enrich uranium.

Western and European nations have a dual-track policy of imposing sanctions and calling for talks to bring Tehran to the negotiating table to discuss its nuclear programme.

They suspect the programme masks a weapons drive, a charge Iran strongly denies.

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