Concerned over the fact that Tehran is not meeting its international obligations on the nuclear weapons issue,Khamenei's statement was considered particularly important because, as one senior Obama administration official put it, “we believe Khamenei now holds the entire nuclear file.”
"The ball is in the Iranians' own court. The burden of these sanctions could be eased if they made a decision to engage with us substantively. We've always said that action on the Iranian side would be matched by action on our side, so it's really up to Iran to engage if it wants to see sanctions eased," the State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters at her daily news conference.
The nuclear talks between Iran and a so-called P5+1 group of powers on Iran's disputed nuclear program are to resume on February 26 in Kazakhstan and there are limited talks between Iran and US.
Khamenei rejects US direct talks
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejected any idea of bilateral talks with the United States on Thursday, in a speech in which he seemed to dismiss the views of Iranian officials — including the country’s foreign minister — who had advocated for such negotiations.
"You (Americans) want to negotiate when you are pointing the gun at Iran. The Iranian nation will not be intimidated by such actions," Khamenei told air force commanders, according to excerpts of his speech posted on his website.
"Some rejoice at the offer of negotiations ... (but) negotiations will not solve anything," he said. The all-powerful Khamenei has final say on all key issues in the Islamic republic, including Iran's sensitive nuclear activities and foreign policy.
"I am not a diplomat but a revolutionary," he said. "The US policies in the Middle East have failed and the Americans are in need of a winning hand. That is bringing Iran to the negotiating table."
Analysis of khamenei's speech
Seeing through historical prism ie including during the Iran-Iraq war demonstrates that Iran can change its position quickly. Despite the ayatollah’s comments, it appears that talks scheduled to begin Feb. 26 between Iran and six nations, including the United States, will go ahead in Kazakhstan.
The P5+1 were of the hope that US and the European Union Sanctions against Iran's banks, oil sales and shipping would help persuade it to negotiate over its nuclear program as sanctions are contributing to high inflation and recently Iran's currency , rial has fallen to 50% against the dollar in the past year .
Iran claims that its program is for civilian purposes while the West alleges that it is a nuclear programme.
Iran's most powerful leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned the Iranian public on Tuesday against helping Tehran's enemies by criticising the forthcoming presidential election.
Iranians go to the polls in June to elect a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Iran's leadership is keen to avoid a repeat of the widespread protests that followed the last presidential vote in 2009.
Khamenei's comments appear to be a response to a debate inside Iran about whether reformist candidates - those with a more moderate stance on issues such as social policy and greater political freedoms - should be allowed to run.
"Everyone, even those who make general recommendations about the election through (expressing) concerns, should take care not to serve the purpose of the enemy," Khamenei said in a statement published on his official website.
Responding to a question on the recent US offer of bilateral consultations with Iran, she said it is up to Tehran to decide on it.
"When (US) Vice President (Joe) Biden was in Munich, he made clear that, in the context of the P5-plus-one process, including the upcoming talks in Almaty, that we would be open to consulting with the Iranians bilaterally. They've obviously got to make their own decisions how they want to proceed within the P5-plus-one context," she said.
"What I would certainly say is that we are, very much hoping that when we have this opportunity in a couple of weeks that the Iranians will come prepared to discuss real substance.
"Whether they'd prefer to do with all of us in the room,and an opportunity to see us bilaterally, we're open to whatever can take this forward. What's most important is that they come prepared to really engage on the substance," the US official said.
Nuland said the US and its international partners have made an offer to engage. "We have had three rounds of talks already. This will be the fourth one (in Almaty). We've been disappointed that those have not yet resulted in real, concrete progress," she said.
ALL options on the table
"We've also said that in the absence of progress, in the absence of movement, we would continue to ratchet up the international pressure. So as long as Iran fails to address the concerns of the international community, we're going to
have to continue to increase the pressure and isolate Iran internationally," the US official said.
Victoria Nuland brushed off Khamenei's remarks and urged Iran to show up in Almaty "prepared to discuss real substance" either in a group setting or in bilateral talks.
"So this is really a choice that Iran's leaders can make. They can have a better path for their people. But they've got to make the choice to come clean and answer the international community's concerns about their nuclear program, and that has yet to happen. We'll have another opportunity for them to do that in Almaty," Nuland added.
Ayatollah Khamenei’s wording was quite direct in his speech before air force commanders at his Tehran office, and his comments were reported on his personal Web site.
“I’m not a diplomat; I’m a revolutionary, and speak frankly and directly,” he said. “If anyone wants the return of U.S. dominance here, people will grab his throat.”