TEHERAN/TOKYO • Teheran yesterday ruled out talks with Washington unless the United States changes its "general behaviour", after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his country was ready for negotiations with Iran.
"The change of the general behaviour and actions of the US regarding the Iranian nation is the criterion" required for any talks to take place, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Moussavi, adding that Mr Pompeo was "playing with words".
Mr Pompeo yesterday said his country was ready to talk with Teheran "with no preconditions", but gave no indication that lifting sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme is on the table.
The top American diplomat, who is considered a hawk on Iran, appeared to soften the US stance somewhat following weeks of escalating tensions with Teheran.
"We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions," Mr Pompeo said at a news conference in Switzerland. "We are ready to sit down with them," he added.
Mr Pompeo was reacting to comments made by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday insisting that his country would not be "bullied" into talks with the US, and that any dialogue between the two countries needed to be grounded in "respect".
But Mr Pompeo appeared to immediately backpedal on the offer to have condition-free talks with Iran, stating that Washington was "certainly prepared to have (a) conversation when the Iranians prove they are behaving as a normal nation".
Mr Pompeo's comments mark the first time the Trump administration has offered no-strings-attached talks with Iran since the recent escalation of tensions began in the wake of the US withdrawal from a hard-won 2015 nuclear deal between Teheran and world powers.
Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, this month with Tokyo hoping to mediate between Washington and Teheran, a report said yesterday.
Mr Abe will also meet Mr Rouhani before meeting Mr Khamenei during his trip to Iran from June 12 to 14, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper said, citing unnamed government sources.