DUBAI - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday Tehran would not negotiate about its disputed nuclear program under pressure, but would talk to its adversaries if they stopped "pointing the gun.'
In a speech to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, Ahmadinejad struck a more conciliatory tone than Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who on February 7 rebuffed a U.S. call for direct negotiations on disputes between the two countries.
Ahmadinejad does not have the authority to authorize negotiations over the nuclear program, which lies with Khamenei.
"You cannot point a gun at the Iranian nation and then expect them to have negotiations with you," Ahmadinejad said, speaking to a crowd gathered in Tehran's Azadi (Freedom) Square.
His speech, which partly dealt with Iran's policy towards its 'enemies', was carried live on Iranian state television.
"Talks should not be used as a lever to impose one's opinions.... If you stop pointing the gun at the Iranian nation, I will negotiate (with you) myself," he added.
The U.S. and some of its allies suspect Iran may be trying to develop atomic weapons capability under the cover of a civilian nuclear energy program, a charge Iran has denied.
Many believe no nuclear deal is possible without a U.S.-Iranian thaw, requiring direct talks addressing myriad sources of mutual mistrust and hostility lingering since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and the hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
On the nuclear dispute, Iran has agreed to a new round of talks with world powers in Kazakhstan on February 26.