Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday that he is ready to have talks with United States if the West stops pressuring his country, the latest in a series of hints from leaders in both Washington and Tehran about the prospect of direct bilateral negotiations over the Islamic Republic's controversial nuclear program.
However, Washington is highly unlikely to relax sanctions on Iran - and Tehran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on key state decisions, says that his country won't negotiate under threat. This makes it hard to envision how talks could take place.
Ahmadinejad is in his final months of his term of office and his followers are weakened by a feud with the Islamic Republic's clerical establishment. His latest statement, which implies that he is an equal player with Khamenei in foreign policy matters, may simply be an attempt to appear as though he is still politically relevant.
"You pull away the gun from the face of the Iranian nation, and I myself will enter the talks with you," Ahmadinejad said at a ceremony marking the 34th anniversary of the 1979 revolution that toppled a Western-backed monarch and ushered in the Islamic Republic.
He said the West had recently taken a "better" tone toward Iran - a nod to statements made by Vice President Joe Biden last week.