By Thomas Erdbrink and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
TEHRAN -- Iran's supreme leader, spurning what he described as several personal overtures from President Obama, warned Tuesday that negotiating with the United States would be "naive and perverted" and that Iranian politicians should not be "deceived" into starting such talks.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 70, said Obama has approached him several times through oral and written messages. It was the second time that Khamenei, who wields ultimate political and religious authority in Iran, has referred to the president's outreach.
The White House has not confirmed sending letters to the Iranian supreme leader but has acknowledged a willingness to talk to Tehran and said it has sought to communicate with Iranian leaders in a variety of ways.
In his harshest comments yet on the Obama administration, Khamenei said in a speech Tuesday that the United States has ill intentions toward Iran and is not to be trusted.
"The new U.S. president has said nice things," he said. "He has given us many spoken and written messages and said: 'Let's turn the page and create a new situation. Let's cooperate with each other in resolving world problems.' "
Khamenei said he had responded in March to Obama's overtures, referring to a speech in which he said he would wait for changes in U.S. policy toward Iran before reassessing ties.
Since then, Khamenei said, "what we have witnessed is completely the opposite of what they have been saying and claiming. On the face of things, they say, 'Let's negotiate.' But alongside this, they threaten us and say that if these negotiations do not achieve a desirable result, they will do this and that."
Khamenei urged Iranian representatives to be extremely careful when dealing with the United States.
"Whenever they smile at the officials of the Islamic revolution, when we carefully look at the situation, we notice that they are hiding a dagger behind their back," he said. "They have not changed their intentions."
The remarks came amid wrangling between Iranian officials and representatives of the United States, Russia and France over a U.N.-backed proposal aimed at resolving a protracted dispute over Iran's nuclear program. Under the deal, Iran would ship much of its low-enriched uranium abroad for processing into fuel for a research reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes.
On Monday, Iran said it wanted further negotiations and more guarantees that any uranium it ships would be returned. During talks on the offer in Geneva on Oct. 1, Iranian officials tentatively agreed to the arrangement.
In Morocco on Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Iran to accept the uranium swap proposal.
In a news conference after talks with Arab leaders in the city of Marrakesh, Clinton said, "We continue to press the Iranians to accept fully the proposal that has been made, which they accepted in principle." Full agreement to the proposal "would be a good indication that Iran does not wish to be isolated and does wish to cooperate with the international community," she said.
Iran should take the deal as it stands, she added, "because we are not altering it."
Khamenei made his remarks during a commemoration of the Nov. 4, 1979, takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, which led to the rupture of U.S.-Iranian ties and which will be celebrated throughout Iran on Wednesday.
Iranian authorities, meanwhile, warned the opposition against using Wednesday's commemorative events to stage protests against the government. Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have urged supporters to demonstrate during the anniversary rallies, news agencies reported.
"Only anti-American rallies in front of the former American Embassy in Tehran are legal," the head of Tehran's security forces said in a statement. "Other gatherings or rallies on Wednesday are illegal and will be strongly confronted by the police."