US rejects Iranian qualms about talks

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2006 (AFP) – The White House said Tuesday that it did not consider Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s rejection of a proposal for nuclear talks as the Islamic Republic’s final word on the offer.

Spokesman Tony Snow also suggested — then quickly retracted — that private talks between Iran and European countries were more positive than Tehran’s public position might indicate.

After Khamenei said that Iran had "no use" for talks with the United States, Snow said that Washington would only recognize a formal answer given by Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, to European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

"The position has always been the same, which is: When Mr Larijani communicates with Javier Solana, that is how we expect to have an answer to the proposal," Snow told reporters.

"There are differing voices coming out of Iran, this is the one that we and our EU partners have said would be the appropriate track for responding, and therefore that’s the track that we would expect to hear through," he said.

Khamenei said Tuesday he saw "no use" in negotiating with the United States and again signalled that Tehran was unwilling to freeze sensitive nuclear work, something Washington and partners Britain, France, and Germany have made a precondition for talks.

Asked whether Iranian leaders were signalling that they would ignore a US call for a formal response to the June 6 proposal in "weeks, not months," Snow replied: "Well, no they’re not."