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US quietly invites Iran to talks based on 'mutual respect'

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The U.S. may be hoping Iran's new president-elect, Hasan Rowhani, shown here in front of a portrait of the late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, will be amenable to talks. (AP)AP

The U.S. State Department has quietly offered to enter into bilateral talks with Iran based on “mutual respect,” according to an interview an American diplomat gave to the Islamic republic’s state-run media.

In the interview, which was mysteriously taken down shortly after publication by Fars News, a semi-official media outlet with suspected ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, State Department spokesman Alan Eyre said the Obama administration “is ready for talks with Iran.” Eyre said the talks could be one-on-one or through the so-called P5 +1, which is comprised of the five permanent members  of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

Although Fars News took down the interview, Eyre has the cached version posted on his Facebook page, text of the interview is posted on other Persian media sites and a State Department official confirmed to Fox News that Eyre’s olive branch was officially extended.

“We hope the Iranian government will engage substantively with the international community to reach a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program,” the official said. “We and our international partners remain ready to engage directly with the Government of Iran.”

But the invitation to talks appears to be part of a carrot-and-stick approach. The interview was posted less than 24 hours after the Obama administration issued a fresh round of sanctions against Iran’s regime, this time affecting gold trade, still aiming to deter their ongoing nuclear agenda.

The new sanctions, which took effect Monday, target trade with Iran's shipping and automobile sectors and the sale of gold to Iran, which has been a method used to bypass banking sanction.

Amid a rapidly deteriorating Iranian economy crippled by sanctions and isolation, the regime maintains their proliferation program is for peaceful purposes. 

Eyre also mentioned the recent presidential election in Iran, urging President-elect Hassan Rowhani to  “meet his promises” and promote individual freedom among Iranians. 

Regarding Iran’s nuclear agenda, which remains at the center of Western concern regarding the regime, Eyre suggested that Tehran “mitigate the global community’s fears regarding proliferation” so that international sanctions can be lifted.

The State Department official would not comment on how the interview was arranged or initiated. It came just weeks after Rowhani was elected to replace current hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Rowhani and many of his supporters consider him a reformist candidate, though skeptics say his political record proves otherwise.

It is unclear whether the Iranian regime will attempt to reconcile its relationship with the West under a new president, but government officials have already come out to say that there will be no change in Iran’s production of uranium enrichment.

Ultimately, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the decision maker in Iran.

 

Rowhani takes office in early August.

Lisa Daftari is a Fox News contributor specializing in Middle Eastern affairs.