Iran's supreme leader has said he is not opposed to direct talks with the US to resolve Tehran's nuclear standoff with the West, but said he was not optimistic about any developments.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday that such talks would not yield results unless Washington stopped imposing sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
The offer of direct bilateral talks with Iran is a US tactic to deceive the public and impose its will on Tehran, Khamenei said in his televised speech from the northeastern holy city of Mashhad to mark the Iranian new year.
He said the problems could be resolved if Washington, with which it has had no diplomatic relations since the 1979 Revolution, would stop imposing sanctions, harming Iran's economy and acting against Iran's territorial integrity.
Khamenei called for Iran's "natural right" to enrich uranium for nuclear energy to be recognised by the world.
Iran has been holding talks with six world powers - the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany over the issue.
Western powers say Iran has hidden nuclear work from UN inspectors and stonewalled their investigations, a charge the country denies.
Talks are expected to resume early next month in a further attempt to strike a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme, which the country says is for civilian purpose and not for making weapons.
'Destroy Israeli cities'
Israel, believed to be the sole undeclared nuclear power in the Middle East, has threatened military action against Iran unless it abandons its nuclear activities.
Washington has also refused to rule out a military option, but says it prefers a diplomatic solution to the nuclear stand-off.
US President Barack Obama in Jerusalem on Wednesday accepted that Israel would not cede its right to confront Iran's nuclear threat to the US.
"We agree on our goal. We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran," Obama said, adding that "all options are on the table".
Referring to the Israeli threat to attack Iranian nuclear sites, Khamenei said the Tehran would destroy the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa if it came under attack.
"Every now and then the leaders of the Zionist regime threaten Iran with a military attack," Khamenei said.