Ready for n-talks if US pressure stops: Iran
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In a speech to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, Ahmadinejad struck a more conciliatory tone than supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who on February 7 rebuffed a US call for direct negotiations on disputes between the two countries.
Ahmadinejad does not have the authority to authorise negotiations over the nuclear programme, which lies with Khamenei. "You cannot point a gun at the Iranian nation and then expect them to have negotiations with you," Ahmadinejad said, speaking to a crowd gathered in Tehran's Azadi (Freedom) Square.
His speech, which partly dealt with Iran's policy towards its 'enemies', was carried live on Iranian state television.
"Talks should not be used as a lever to impose one's opinions.... If you stop pointing the gun at the Iranian nation, I will negotiate (with you) myself," he added.
Ahmadinejad did not address the specifics of Iran's nuclear programme, or of the planned talks, in his speech on Sunday. He said that Iran would counter the sanctions by increasing its non-oil exports and weaning itself off crude revenues. "Today the enemies are trying their utmost to put pressure on the Iranian nation to stop its progress but they will not succeed," he said.
The US and some of its allies suspect Iran may be trying to develop atomic weapons capability under the cover of a civilian nuclear energy programme, a charge Iran has denied.
Many believe no nuclear deal is possible without a US-Iran thaw, requiring direct talks addressing myriad sources of mutual mistrust and hostility lingering since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and the hostage crisis at the US embassy in Tehran.
On the nuclear dispute, Iran has agreed to a new round of talks with world powers in Almaty, Kazakhstan on February 26.