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Despite Signs of Interest, Iran Rules Out U.S. Nuclear Talks After New Sanctions

February 7, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN:  A back and forth over negotiations, continued concern over nuclear proliferation, and ramped-up sanctions.

We turn next to U.S. relations with Iran.

The most recent talk of direct talks between the U.S. and Iran began at a security summit in Germany last Saturday. Vice President Joe Biden told the gathering that discussions on Iran’s nuclear program are still possible.

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: We have made it clear at the outset that we wouldn’t — we would be prepared to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership. 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 for the exercise.

JEFFREY BROWN:  In Berlin two days later, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi suggested his government also favors direct talks with Washington.

ALI AKBAR SALEHI, Iranian Foreign Minister: I think it’s about time that both sides really get into engagement, because confrontation certainly is not the way.

JEFFREY BROWN:  But in Tehran today, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, firmly dismissed the idea. He accused the U.S. of — quote — “holding a gun to Iran’s head” in the form of sanctions and ruled out talks.

AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI, Supreme Leader of Iran: Negotiations is a tactic. Talk is a tactic, a gesture of superpower, is only a deceptive move. This is not a real move. Talks are intended to prove goodwill. You do a dozen of things revealing your bad will, and then verbally say let’s talk. Can the Iranian nation trust that you have any goodwill?

JEFFREY BROWN:  Khamenei spoke out one day after the U.S. announced more sanctions, a new attempt to limit Iran’s access to foreign revenue from oil sales.