The U.S. will seek next week to hold direct meetings with Iran over its nuclear arsenal before the country’s elections take place in June, American officials said on Thursday.
But any such session would run against the position of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has recently attacked the idea of direct talks between Tehran and Washington, The Wall Street Journal
“They say, ‘Let us negotiate to force Iran to accept what we tell them,’” Khamenei said in a speech on Sunday in Tehran, The Journal reports. “Such talks would be worthless. Such talks will lead nowhere.”
Still, U.S. and European officials told The Journal that the idea of direct negotiations is gathering steam as the June election nears.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cannot seek reelection — and both he and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi have said they would be willing to meet with American diplomats, The Journal reports.
Any such talks could also put pressure on Khamenei, both inside Iran and within the international community, as he may be viewed as the primary impediment to progress regarding Iran's nuclear program, The Journal reports.
“If Iran says ‘yes,’ that would be great,” a European diplomat working on Iran told The Journal. “If not, we think they'll be more isolated.”
Next week, the United States will participate in negotiations in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, beginning on Tuesday, with Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany. The group is known as the P5+1.
U.S. officials said they will convey to Iran their desire for direct negotiations at the session, The Journal reports.
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