Iran to US: ‘You change, our behaviour will change’

Speaking a day after Obama’s videotaped overture, Iran’s most powerful figure criticized US actions toward Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution and said he did not see any change in practice from the new US administration so far.

But Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state, added: “You change, our behaviour will change.”

Indicating areas where Iran wants a different US approach, he said the United States was “hated in the world” and should stop interfering in other countries’ internal affairs.

He also spoke of “oppressive sanctions” imposed on the Islamic Republic, Iranian assets frozen in the United States and Washington’s backing of Israel, which Tehran does not recognize.

“They give the slogan of change but in practice no change is seen … We haven’t seen any change,” Khamenei told a big crowd at Shi’ite Muslim Iran’s most prominent religious shrine in the northeastern city of Mashhad.

Iran and the United States have not had diplomatic ties for three decades and are now embroiled in a dispute over Tehran’s nuclear work, which the West suspects is aimed at making bombs. Iran denies the charge.

In a major shift from the policies of his predecessor George W. Bush, who branded Iran part of an “axis of evil” and spearheaded a drive to isolate it, Obama has talked of extending a hand of peace to Tehran if it “unclenches its fist.”

On Friday, the US president offered a “new beginning” of diplomatic engagement between the two old foes.

Khamenei said a change of US words was not enough and that Obama had “insulted” Iran and its government immediately after taking office, without elaborating.

US ‘crimes’
While reaching out to Iran, Obama’s administration has also warned of tougher sanctions if it continues to defy UN demands to halt sensitive nuclear work.

“You give the slogan of negotiation and pressure again … Our nation cannot be talked to like this,” Khamenei said.

During his televised speech, the crowd chanted: “Death to America. Death to America.”

In his warmest offer yet of a fresh start in relations, Obama said in his video message released to mark the Iranian New Year: “The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations.”  .

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