Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s top security adviser said on Monday that American officials had approached him during a visit to Afghanistan to request talks with Tehran, according to Iranian news reports.
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, told a gathering of international defence and security officials in Tehran that US officials approached him twice in Kabul last month.
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Shamkhani said he rejected the offer, saying the United States has violated a number of international agreements, “so there is no point in negotiating with them”.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have increased since last May, when US President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers, and then reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic that had been lifted under the accord.
US officials were not immediately available to comment on the reports.
Trump recently said that he would “love to negotiate” with Tehran, but added that Iranian leaders “are not ready yet, I don’t think. But they will be.”
In 2001, Iran worked with the US to help set up a new Afghan government to replace the Taliban, which had been toppled by a US-led military campaign following al-Qaeda’s September 11 attacks on US cities.
Shamkhani was in Kabul last month for talks with the Taliban “to help curb the security problems in Afghanistan”. He said the Kabul government had known of the talks.
‘Cruel US pressure’
Iran has long-standing, close ties with Shia communities in neighbouring Afghanistan, whose militias have fought against the Taliban armed group.
Washington accuses Iran of trying to extend its influence in western Afghanistan by providing military training, financing and weapons to the Taliban, a charge Tehran denies.
Shamkhani’s comments came days after reports of talks between US and Taliban officials over proposals for a ceasefire in Afghanistan and a future withdrawal of foreign troops ahead of possible peace talks.
Iran’s Supreme Leader slapped down an offer of direct talks made by Trump last year and Iranian officials have said Washington’s crippling sanctions would fail to wreck the economy.
In July, Iranian authorities said Tehran had rejected eight US requests for a meeting between Trump and President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
“America’s fantasy and hostile measures have led nowhere, in spite of all their vengeful efforts towards the Iranian people, and will certainly not in the future,” Iranian state TV quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying on Monday.
“Our nation will never yield to the cruel pressures of the United States. We will never bend to those who talk the language of sanctions and build walls instead of bridges.”
Iranian officials have repeatedly said that there will be no talks with the US as long as the sanctions are in place.