Iran’s top diplomat confirms talks with US

Beirut, Lebanon — Iran’s acting foreign minister Ali Bagheri said Monday his government was engaged in negotiations with arch-foe the United States hosted by the Gulf sultanate of Oman. 

Asked about the issue at a news conference during a visit to Beirut, Bagheri said, “we have always continued our negotiations … and they have never stopped.” 

Washington and Tehran have not had diplomatic relations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. 

The British daily Financial Times reported in March that Bagheri was involved in indirect talks with the United States in Oman in early 2024, against the backdrop of heightened regional tensions over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. 

The United States is Israel’s close ally and top provider of military assistance, while Iran backs the Palestinian militant group Hamas. 

Bagheri arrived Monday in Lebanon, on his first foreign trip since assuming the interim role following the death of Hossein Amirabdollahian in a helicopter crash last month that also killed Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi. 

Bagheri said the choice of destination for his visit was “because Lebanon is the cradle of resistance” against Israel. 

Iran supports the powerful Lebanese group Hezbollah financially and militarily. 

The Shiite Muslim movement, a Hamas ally, has traded regular cross-border fire with Israel since the start of the Gaza war in early October. 

Bagheri, Iran’s former top nuclear negotiator, said discussions with Western powers about Tehran’s atomic activities were ongoing. 

Western governments fear Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon — a claim the Islamic republic denies. 

“We advise them not to miss the opportunity any further and compensate for the actions that they must have carried out but didn’t,” Bagheri said, as a meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog opened in Vienna. 

Diplomats told AFP that Britain, France and Germany will seek to censure Tehran over its lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the organization’s board meeting. 

At the last board meeting in March, European powers shelved their plans to confront Iran because of a lack of support from Washington. 

Bagheri is due to travel from Lebanon to Syria on Tuesday.