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21 Mar, 2009 19:24

Nobody said it was easy: Iran cautious over friendly Obama

Iran has been restrained in its reply to President Barack Obama's offer to begin a new era of relations between the countries.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed overtures from US President Barack Obama on Saturday, saying Tehran did not see any change in US policy under its new administration.

In his most direct assessment of Obama and prospects for improved ties, Khamenei said there would be no change between the two countries unless the American president puts an end to US hostility towards Iran and brings “real changes” in foreign policy.

“They chant the slogan of change but no change is seen in practice. We haven't seen any change,” Khamenei said in his speech, which was broadcast live on state television.

Earlier Ali Akbar Javanfekr, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's press advisor, said that Iran welcomed the initiative but warned that years of mistrust can not be forgotten easily.

“We welcome the wish of the president of the United States to put away past differences,”
Ali Akbar Javanfekr  was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

“But the way to do that is not by Iran forgetting the previous hostile and aggressive attitude of the United States.”

The official noted that Iran remembers numerous U.S. mistakes, including the 1988 shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane with 290 people on board and America’s support for Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

Ali Akbar Javanfekr also stressed that the American military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan creates instability in the region.

On Friday, Barack Obama released his video address to the Iranian leadership and people, where he called on Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations, adopting more peaceful policies.

“That place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization,” he said. “And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.”

While it is still unclear how many Iranians have seen the video as it has not been broadcasted on Iranian state TV stations, a number of Tehran residents flocked to internet cafes to watch the message on the White House Web site.

And met it with mixed reactions.

Some described it as “a great move” after long-term strained relations, while others felt problems between the two countries “cannot be easily settled,” the AP news agency reported.