02/08/2013, 00.00
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Khamenei rejects US offer of direct nuclear talks

According to Iran's supreme leader, Washington holds "a gun against Iran".The gun in question is the new set of sanctions adopted by the US Congress against Tehran's nuclear programme.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Gran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has dismissed direct nuclear talks with the United States. In a statement posted on his website, Iran's supreme leader said that talks would solve nothing when one side, the United States, holds "a gun against Iran".

Last Saturday, US Vice President Joe Biden offered Tehran the possibility of one-to-one talks. In responding, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi welcomed the move.

By contrast, "Talks will not solve any problems," Khamenei said, when "You (the US) are holding a gun against Iran saying, 'Talks or you'll fire.' The Iranian nation will not be frightened by such threats".

The grand ayatollah's reaction also follows a move by Washington on Wednesday to tighten sanctions on the Islamic Republic this week.

The US, Israel and some members of the European Union are opposed to Tehran's nuclear programme, which they believe to be military in nature, whereas Iran has always claimed it is strictly for peaceful purposes.

Existing measures had already cut Iran's oil revenue by 45 per cent. The new sanctions will cut deeper into Iran's ability to get oil revenue because they call on countries that buy Iranian crude-like China and India-to set the money aside and require Iran use it buy local products rather than get cash.

Since its inception, the embargo has been hard on Iran, increasing poverty. However, in recent days some financial institutions like Bank Saderat Iran and Bank Mellat have convinced the European Court of Justice to remove their names from the EU's blacklist.

For some analysts, Khamenei's thumb down on talks with the US is also a subtle rebuke of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who in the past has called for direct talks with Washington.

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