United States is prepared to engage with Iran without pre-conditions about its nuclear program but needs to see the country behaving like “a normal nation,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani suggested Saturday that Iran may be willing to hold talks if Washington showed it respect, but said Tehran would not be pressured into talks.
Secretary Pompeo, in an apparent softening of his previous stance, said when asked about President Rouhani’s remarks: “We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no pre-conditions. We are ready to sit down.”
He said Washington will continue to work to “reverse the malign activity” of Iran in the Middle East, citing Tehran’s support to Hezbollah and to the Syrian government.
Secretary Pompeo said President Trump had been saying for a long time that he was willing to talk to Iran.
“We are certainly prepared to have that conversation when the Iranians can prove that they want to behave like a normal nation,” Secretary Pompeo told a joint news conference with his Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis.
Responding to the Us offer, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: “The Islamic Republic of Iran does not pay attention to word-play and expression of hidden agenda in new forms. What matters is the change of US general approach and actual behavior towards the Iranian nation.”
Last Monday, President Trump said he is hopeful Iran would come to the negotiating table. But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday Tehran would not negotiate with Washington, even after Rouhani had previously signaled talks might be possible if sanctions were lifted.
Secretary Pompeo declined Sunday to comment on the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He said Washington was tracking IAEA findings closely but added: “We also have our own independent understanding of what is taking place there.
“And the world should be mindful that we are watching closely how Iran is complying with the requirements that were set out in the JCPOA, not only the heavy water issue, but the amount of high-enriched uranium which they are accumulating,” he said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action which The Trump Administration has quit.
Secretary Pompeo also called on Iran to stop Uranium enrichment, never to pursue plutonium reprocessing and to close its heavy water reactor. He said it also had to declare all previous military dimensions of its nuclear program and to permanently and verifiably abandon such work.
Switzerland has served as an intermediary between Iran and the United States since shortly after the Islamic revolution in November 1979.
Washington re-imposed sanctions last year and ratcheted them up in May, ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian Crude Oil. In recent weeks it has also hinted at military confrontation, saying it was sending extra forces to the Middle East to respond to an Iranian threat.