TEHRAN // The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, yesterday said the United States must change its attitude if it wanted to hold direct talks with his country about its nuclear programme, as he hit out at Washington for imposing sanctions on Tehran.
His comments, in a speech marking the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution that ousted the shah in 1979, came just days after Iran's supreme leader rejected a call for direct talks from the US vice president, Joe Biden.
They also come at a time when Tehran and six leading world powers - the so-called P5+1: the US, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany - prepare to resume stalled talks about Iran's nuclear programme. They are scheduled to begin in the Kazakh city of Almaty on February 26.
"The change of tone is necessary but not sufficient," Mr Ahmadinejad said at Tehran's landmark Azadi (Freedom) Square amid chants of "Death to America".
"Stop pointing weapons at the Iranian nation and I will myself negotiate with you," he added. "Talks should be with respect, fairness and not under pressure.
"You have done everything to prevent us from becoming nuclear and you have failed. The best solution is cooperation and understanding."
Last week, Mr Biden made a "serious offer" for direct talks within the framework of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries ovr Tehran's nuclear programme, which world powers suspect is aimed at making atomic weapons.Iran vehemently denies this, insisting it is for peaceful use only.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all national issues, rejected Mr Biden's offer outright.
"I am not a diplomat but a revolutionary and I speak frankly," he said on Thursday. "You (Americans) are pointing the gun at Iran and say either negotiate or we will shoot."
Yesterday, Mr Ahmadinejad called on Iranians to remain united behind Mr Khamenei, reiterating that "the Iranian nation will not give up an inch of its legitimate rights".
Tehran is currently under a series of international and western sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear ambitions, mainly the process of uranium enrichment.
* Agence France-Presse