US would talk with Iran ‘with no preconditions’: Pompeo

(ALJAZEERA) – Washington is willing to speak with Iran “with no preconditions”, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday, but stressed his country would continue working to rein in what he called Iran’s “malign activity”.

“We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions. We are ready to sit down with them,” Pompeo told a joint news conference in Switzerland with Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis.

“The American effort to fundamentally reverse the malign activity of this Islamic Republic, this revolutionary force, is going to continue,” Pompeo added.

Iran has repeatedly said it would not talk to the US while it is under renewed sanctions.

Pompeo’s latest comments come amid continuing tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington DC, said Pompeo’s remarks could not be called a turning point but they showed “the softening of the White House message about Iran”.

“There are people in Trump’s administration who argue that diplomacy should be the first line of defence,” she said.

“Certainly it is significant that Mike Pompeo, who has also been seen as a hardliner on dealing with Iran, would be saying multiple times during the press conference: ‘No preconditions, we are ready to talk’.”

Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi, reporting from Tehran, said it was still unlikely that the development would result in talks.

“We have been watching both Iran and the United States in the past several weeks and months ratchet up the pressure and then walk back from their very stern and aggressive positions towards each other,” he said.

“So while there does seem to be a noted softening of positions on both sides – they are no longer walking towards the brink of war – the questions that Tehran’s leaders and strategists are asking themselves is what the talks with the United States actually be about. Iran said over and over again that it will not renegotiate a nuclear deal.”

‘Bullied into negotiations’

On Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested Iran may be willing to hold talks if the United States showed its respect.

Rouhani said Tehran would not be “bullied” into negotiations with Washington, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

“We are for logic and talks if [the other side] sits respectfully at the negotiating table and follows international regulations, not if it issues an order to negotiate,” Fars news agency cited Rouhani as saying.

“We have shown that we do not submit to bullying and covetous powers,” he said.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Thursday Washington would present evidence linking Iran to attacks on oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates earlier this month.

The alleged evidence would be presented to the United Nations Security Council as early as next week, Bolton said, reiterating earlier claims suggesting that Iran was behind the May 12 attack on four commercial ships in the Gulf.