TEHRAN - Iran yesterday said it had no plans to start talks with the United States, and that American policy toward Iran must change. On Friday U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Iran's acceptance of U.S. aid after the Bam earthquake had opened up opportunities for dialogue between the foes although there was no reason to expect a quick political rapprochement.

"Now there is no plan for starting negotiations," said Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi. "U.S. policy toward Iran must change, getting rid of its hostile atmosphere. We have said that it is important for the negotiations between the countries to be based on mutual respect and to take place on an equal footing."

In the aftermath of the December 26 earthquake in the city of Bam that killed more than 30,000 people, the U.S. relief effort was seen as prompting moves toward improved relations between Washington and Tehran.

President George Bush said Iran was part of an "axis of evil" along with North Korea and Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Iranians widely term the United States "The Great Satan" and President Mohammad Khatami was quoted in the hardline Jomhuri-ye Eslami daily on Wednesday as saying it was an "enemy" and "unreliable".

Iran has called on Washington to lift sanctions imposed in 1995, which among other things prevent U.S. companies from investing in OPEC's second-largest producer or trading in Iranian oil.