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Iran's supreme leader rejects direct talks with US

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s supreme leader Thursday strongly rejected proposals for direct talks with United States, apparently quashing suggestions for a breakthrough dialogue on the nuclear standoff and potentially other issues.

The statement posted on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s website marked his first reaction to the idea for the one-on-one talks, which have been floated for months and were reinforced last week by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

But any possible momentum depended on Khamenei, who has the final say in all key matters and has previously opposed direct negotiations with Washington.

“Talks will not solve any problems,” Khamenei said in a statement.

“You are holding a gun against Iran saying you want to talk. The Iranian nation will not be frightened by the threats,” he added in apparent reference to U.S. sanctions over Iran’s nuclear efforts.

Iran and six world powers, including the U.S., are scheduled to resume nuclear negotiations later this month. Three rounds last year ended in stalemate with Tehran pushing for a roll back in Western sanctions in exchange for any key concessions on its nuclear program.

The West and allies fear that Iran’s uranium enrichment labs could eventually produce weapons-grade material. The Islamic Republic claims it only seeks nuclear fuel for energy reactors and medical applications.

The U.S. and Iran broke ties after the storming of the American Embassy in Tehran in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iranian militants held American hostages for 444 days.

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