Monday, May 21, 2018

Iranian lawmaker: Obama proposed talks; U.S. denies

TEHRAN, Iran — An Iranian lawmaker claimed Wednesday that President Barack Obama called for direct talks with Iran in a secret letter to the Islamic Republic's supreme leader that also warned Tehran against closing the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Obama administration officials denied there was such a letter.

Iran has threatened to close the waterway, the route for about one-sixth of the global oil flow, because of new U.S. sanctions over its nuclear program.

Conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari revealed the content of the alleged letter days after the Obama administration said it was warning Iran through public and private channels against any action that threatens the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf.

"In the letter, Obama called for direct talks with Iran," the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted Motahari as saying Wednesday. "The letter also said that closing the Strait of Hormuz is (Washington's) red line."

"The first part of the letter contains threats and the second part contains an offer for dialogue," he added.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast confirmed that Tehran received the letter and was considering a possible response.

In Washington, an Obama administration official denied that Obama sent a letter to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying U.S. views were being communicated through other diplomatic messages.

Spokesmen have been vague on what the United States would do about Iran's threat to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz, but military officials have been clear that the United States is readying for a possible naval clash.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the country's most powerful military force, says Tehran's leadership has decided to order the closure of the oil route if Iran's oil exports are blocked.

Israel says no decision to attack Iran: Israel moved to calm the increasingly tense discourse over Iran's nuclear program Wednesday, with the Israeli defense minister saying any decision on a possible pre-emptive military strike on Iranian targets was "very far off."

The assertion by Defense Minister Ehud Barak was at least the third indication from the Israeli government in the past few days that it was not considering armed confrontation over the nuclear issue with Iran anytime soon, and it came amid signs that Iran and Western powers led by the United States may resume talks that have been stalled for a year.

Earlier this week, Israel and the United States announced they were postponing joint military exercises in the Middle East.

Information from New York Times was used in this report.

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