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Iran minister 'optimistic' US is shifting its view on Iran

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Monday he was "optimistic" the United States was revamping its approach to Tehran in the protracted dispute over the Islamic republic's nuclear programme.

"As I have said yesterday, I am optimistic," he told a foreign policy think tank in Berlin.

"I feel this new (US) administration is really this time seeking to at least divert from its previous and traditional approach vis-a-vis my country."

Salehi had told a security conference in the southern German city of Munich Sunday that Iran was open to a US offer for bilateral discussions if Washington's intentions were "authentic".

He said Iran took comments by US officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, who said at the Munich conference that Washington was ready to hold talks with Iran on its nuclear programme, "with positive consideration".

And Salehi said Iran was ready to resume talks over its disputed nuclear work with the United States and five other world powers in Kazakhstan on February 25, insisting that Iran had never pulled back from the negotiations.

"The recent approach by the US, we look at it positively," he said Monday.

"We hope that this time they are really meaning what they say and that they really want to see how they can resolve this issue bilaterally. We express our readiness to resolve the issue bilaterally."

Washington severed diplomatic ties with Iran in the wake of the 1979 revolution, and relations remain hostile.

Iran and six world powers -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany -- held three rounds of talks last year aimed at easing the standoff over Iran's nuclear activities, which Tehran insists are peaceful.

The six, known as the P5+1 or EU3+3, called on Iran to roll back its programme but stopped short of meeting Tehran's demands that they scale back sanctions, and the last round ended in stalemate in June in Moscow.

Since then, talks have been held up over disagreements on their location.

In broadly conciliatory remarks, Salehi added Monday that Tehran would continue talks with the Syrian opposition following a preliminary meeting at the weekend.

"We had 45 (minutes) to an hour discussion which was very fruitful... and we committed ourselves to continue this discussion," Salehi said after meeting Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib in Munich.

Saleh on Sunday called the talks with Khatib a "very good meeting" and "a good step forward".

They were the first between the Iranian foreign minister and Khatib, who became Syrian National Coalition leader late last year and who also met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Biden in Munich on Saturday.

Salehi said the opposition and government in Syria needed to be able to sit down for talks and that he had stressed to Khatib the need for the two sides to meet and organise presidential elections.

His speech in Berlin was briefly interrupted by a protester and a few dozen demonstrators braved the cold, driving rain to stage a rally against Iran's human rights record.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130204/iran-minister-optimistic-us-shifting-its-view-iran