TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's supreme leader said a solution to the nuclear impasse with the West would be "easy" if the United States and its allies are serious about seeking a deal, Iranian media reported Thursday.
The remarks by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are his first on the nuclear issue since the presidential election earlier this month of Hasan Rouhani, who supports direct talks with Washington. It suggests Khamenei also could endorse bolder diplomacy by Tehran if talks resume with world powers.
Several newspapers, including the hard-line Jomhouri Eslami, quoted Khamenei as saying "the solution to Iran's nuclear case is an easy and smooth job" if Western powers want to strike a deal.
"The opposition front against Iran does not want the nuclear issue to be solved," Khamenei told a group of judiciary officials Wednesday.
Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, singled out the U.S. for what he called "new excuses" to block possible headway on negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program.
No other details were given in the press reports, but Rouhani has suggested greater openness on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for easing sanctions.
The West suspects Iran seeks a nuclear weapon. Tehran denies the charge, saying its nuclear activities aim at peaceful purposes such as power generation and medical isotopes.
Khamenei also urged all governmental bodies to support Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator who has the backing of reformist leaders. He formally takes over from outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August.
"Managing the country is a difficult job, indeed," Khamenei said. "All individuals and bodies must help the president-elect."
Also Wednesday, Iran's foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Iran supports direct flights to the U.S. as a way to serve the large Iranian community in Southern California and elsewhere. There have been no direct air routes between the two countries since the U.S. broke ties after the storming of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979 in the wake of the Islamic Revolution.
Previously, Iran's national carrier Iran Air operated the longest nonstop flight at the time between Tehran and New York.