MUNICH -- Tehran says it is open to bilateral talks with Washington over the Iranian nuclear crisis, but with conditions.
"Each time we have come and negotiated, it was the other side, unfortunately, which did not heed to its commitment," Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told an international security conference in Munich on February 3. "We have no red line for negotiations -- bilateral negotiations -- when it comes to negotiating a particular subject."
Salehi also suggested that the United States must give up what he called its "contradictory" approach in offering talks:
"On [one hand] you are saying that you would like to enter into bilateral negotiations over [the] nuclear issue with Iran," he said. "But, on [the other hand], you use this threatening rhetorics that 'Everything is on the table, that pressure and negotiation and dialogue should be pursued.' [These positions are not] compatible with each other."
Salehi was speaking at the Munich Security Conference, where, on February 2, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden repeated Washington's longstanding offer to engage Tehran directly over nuclear issues.
Salehi also announced on February 3 that the six major powers involved in talks with Iran over its nuclear program have proposed a new round of talks to Tehran, which would be held in Kazakhstan on February 25.
The European Union later confirmed that the six world powers -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany -- engaged in talks with Iran over its disputed nuclear program had suggested holding discussions in Kazakhstan on that date.
However, Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said Iran had still not given an answer to the proposal.
Nuclear Crisis Dominates Proceedings
The Iran nuclear crisis has dominated much of the three-day Munich Security Conference, which brings together some 400 top diplomats and defense officials from the EU, the United States, Russia, and many other countries.
Speaking in Munich on February 3, Israel's Minister of Defense Ehud Barak called on the international community to maintain pressure on Tehran to assure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.
Barak said the difficulty of dealing with Tehran now is less dangerous and costly in economic terms and lives than dealing with a nuclear Iran in the future would be.
He added that Israel is serious in its resolve to stop Iran and would continue to "keep all options on the table" and expects other countries to do the same.
On February 2, Russia stressed the need to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the conference, "Iran must know the overall game plan; it must see what is in it for this process. We need to convince Iran that this is not about regime change ... this mistrust must be overcome."
Several participants at the conference underlined that 2013 could be a key year for the Iranian nuclear crisis.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the conference on February 2 that "we had elections in the United States and Israel, we will have elections in June in Iran; we see increasing capabilities especially with the issue of enrichment -- let us be very frank, we did not have progress in the last 12 months, so it is obvious that we have to use this year."
Iran Calls For Syria Talks
Ali Akbar Salehi also used the Munich conference to call on Syria's opposition to negotiate with Damascus to end the conflict in the country.
He told conference delegates that the two sides should negotiate and form an interim government to take the country to elections.
But he rejected the opposition's demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down as a precondition for any peace deal.
Salehi also said he met Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz al-Khatib on the sidelines of the Munich discussions on February 2 to present the position of Iran, Syria's main ally.
Salehi described as "a good step forward" Khatib's comments that the Syrian opposition would be willing to talk with representatives of the Syrian government if prisoners were released.
Meanwhile, Turkey has called on the UN Security Council to demand humanitarian access to embattled Syrian cities.
Also speaking in Munich on February 3, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told conference participants that the world body must pass a resolution requiring Damascus to allow humanitarian aid to reach people in Aleppo, Homs, Hama and other conflict points.
He also said that the Security Council should pass a resolution demanding Syrian government forces stop bombarding cities indiscriminately.
Davutoglu said that "Cold War structures" remain in the Security Council and prevent it from acting but that the international community cannot stand by while a government commits "war crimes" against its own people.
The Munich Security Conference, which takes place annually in the southern German city, wraps up at mid-day on February 3.
Copyright (c) 2013 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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