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IRAN: It's not time for Obama administration talks

February 2, 2009 | 10:55 am

LarijanimunichIranian and American officials may brush past each other in the hallways of a major conference in southern Germany this weekend, the first time representatives from the two countries will be attending the same forum since the inauguration of President Obama.

Of course, the new president has said he’s willing to try to improve relations between Washington and Tehran.

But Iranians have been falling all over themselves to predict there won’t be any thaw in the diplomatic ice at the upcoming 45th annual Munich Security Conference, which Vice President Joe Biden, as well as other ranking American and Western officials, will attend.

Biden is scheduled to make a major foreign policy speech on behalf of the Obama administration.

Ali Larijani, speaker of Iran’s parliament, will be among the Iranians at the conference. He told reporters today there was “no plan” to talk with American counterparts, but he didn’t rule out the possibility of informal contacts.

He sounded a pessimistic note about any improvement of ties with the U.S.  under the Obama administration as a prelude to resolving long-standing grievances between the two countries.

Mr. Obama in one of his speeches talked of following a new way regarding the Islamic world, but in some media, some sentences are attributed to him which are not promising, such as talking of big carrots and big stick. This sort of talk is beneath the dignity of the Iranian nation.

To get the ball rolling on talks, Larijani said, the U.S. would have to take some “practical steps,” such as unfreezing Iranian assets or releasing Iranian officials detained in Iraq for alleged security violations.

The U.S. has a beef with Iran over its alleged support of militant groups in the Middle East and its refusal to halt sensitive aspects of its nuclear program, which Americans suspect is aimed at creating a weapons capability.

Larijani, who recently served as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, said Iran would be willing to continue talks with the U.S., Europe, Russia and China over its nuclear program as long as they don’t  push “these irrelevant preconditions,” such as a temporary suspension of Iran’s production of nuclear fuel before negotiations begin. Iran continues to produce enriched uranium, which can be used as fuel for a nuclear power plant or material for a bomb, in violation of four United Nations Security Council resolutions.

“If their goal is to make Iran forget nuclear science that will be a baseless claim and not agreeable to us,” he said.

-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani speaks during news conference in Tehran today. Larijani said he will attend an international security conference in Germany this week but would not hold talks with U.S. representatives there. The poster in the background shows a portrait of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Credit: Atta Kenare / AFP / Getty Images

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