The United States was prepared to engage with Iran without pre-conditions about its nuclear program but needed to see the country behaving like “a normal nation”, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani suggested on Saturday that Iran may be willing to hold talks if Washington showed it respect, but said Tehran would not be pressured into talks.
In an apparent softening of his previous stance, Pompeo said when asked about Rouhani’s remarks: “We are prepared … to engage in conversations with no pre-conditions, we are ready to sit down.”
However, he said Washington would continue to work to “reverse the malign activity” of Iran in the Middle East.
Pompeo said U.S. President Donald 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,” Pompeo said at a joint news conference with his Swiss counterpart in the southern Swiss city of Bellinzona.
Trump said last Monday he was hopeful Iran would come to the negotiating table. But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday Tehran would not negotiate with Washington, even after Rouhani had previously signaled talks might be possible if sanctions were lifted.
Last year, Pompeo outlined 12 ways Iran must change — including stopping its support for proxy groups and halting its missile program — before the United States lifts sanctions.
He 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.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and John Revill in Bellinzona and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Alexander Smith and Deepa Babington)
© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019