iran - AP - January 18 2011
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi speaking in Ankara, January 17, 2011. Photo by AP
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Iran would like to have friendly relations with the United States one day, but not under current conditions, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Saturday.

Commenting on remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this week that Washington supported the Iranian people while opposing the policies of their government, her Iranian counterpart said her message did not add up.

"We have heard such statements over and over again but unfortunately they are full of contradictions," Salehi told a news conference.

Iranian leaders routinely blame the United States for many of their country's ills, often calling it "the great Satan".

The two countries broke diplomatic ties following the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the storming of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Relations remain tense, with Washington accusing Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and sponsoring terrorism, charges denied by Tehran.

"Our policy is the establishment of (good) relations with all countries of the world except the illegal Zionist regime (Israel)," Salehi said.

"However the re-establishment of ties would have meaning (only) when the two parties enter negotiations on an equal basis, on the same level, free of any preconditions."

Nuclear talks between Tehran and world powers, including the United States, have stalled. Washington is pressing for new sanctions on Iran after uncovering what it says was an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

It is not the first time Iran has sent a signal that reconciliation with Washington might be possible someday under different circumstances. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly said he "loves" the American people.

"We have no problems of the people of the United States. We love them. We have problems with the government of the United States," he said in a recent interview with CNN.

In similar vein, Clinton told Iranians, in an interview with Voice of America this week: "The United States has no argument with you. We want to support your aspirations ... We would be thrilled if tomorrow the regime in Iran had a change of mind."

On the possibility of resuming talks, Salehi was downbeat.

"On the one hand there is an expressed desire for negotiation but on the other hand there is (U.S.) rhetoric that does not correspond with (that)," he said.

"As long as these contradictions persist and there is a lack of goodwill, negotiations will certainly not have any meaning."