THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published — Tuesday 4 December 2012
Last update 4 December 2012 2:03 am
TEHRAN: Direct talks between Iran and the United States are possible, but any such breakthrough would have to be approved by the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s foreign minister said Monday.
The comments by Ali Akbar Salehi were a first sign Tehran may seek diplomatic overtures with what it long considers a nemesis in Washington, as sanctions over Iran’s contentious nuclear program stunt the country’s economy.
“Comprehensive political talks are within the powers of the exalted supreme leader,” Salehi said in comments published by the official IRNA news agency.
The US cut diplomatic ties with Iran after militant students stormed the US Embassy in Tehran to protest Washington’s support for deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi following the country’s 1979 revolution. The revolution toppled the pro-US leader and led to an Islamic clerical government.
Tehran cooperated with the Washington in the early days following the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan, but relations reached a new nadir when former President George W. Bush branded it part of the “Axis of Evil.” Iran also supported the toppling of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, but opposed US occupation of the country. In recent weeks, the idea of direct talks has been debated in Iranian media.
“Until now, talks have been held with the US on specific subjects such as Afghanistan and Iraq,” Salehi said. “But as for the idea of comprehensive political talks being raised in public debate — this issue is within the powers of the exalted supreme leader. His excelency decides whether this should be done or not.” Khamenei has given no indication he would meet American diplomats or leaders, and has usually opposed any rapprochement with Washington, denouncing it as an “arrogant power” and accusing it of decades of interference in Iran’s internal affairs.