Iran rejects Western pressure on revolution anniversary

Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:36am EST
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By Yeganeh Torbati

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday Tehran would not negotiate about its disputed nuclear program under pressure, but would talk to its adversaries if they stopped "pointing the gun".

In a speech to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, he struck a more conciliatory tone than Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who on February 7 rebuffed a U.S. call for direct negotiations between the two countries.

Ahmadinejad does not have the authority to authorize talks over the nuclear program, which lies with Khamenei. Iran has already agreed to a new round of talks with world powers, but not direct U.S. talks, in Kazakhstan on February 26.

"You cannot point a gun at the Iranian nation and then expect them to have negotiations with you," Ahmadinejad told a crowd gathered in the capital Tehran's Azadi (Freedom) Square.

His speech was carried live on 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.

The United States and some of its allies suspect Iran may be trying to develop atomic weapons capability under the cover of a civilian nuclear energy program, a charge Iran has denied.

Many experts believe any nuclear deal needs a U.S.-Iranian thaw and direct talks addressing myriad sources of mutual mistrust and hostility lingering since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran.   Continued...