- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2008

— Iran’s foreign minister offered his view on the U.S. presidential campaign today, saying that foreign policy will play a key role in the election and that American voters are “looking for change.”

Speaking during an impromptu briefing with reporters traveling with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to a conference on Iraq in Stockholm, Manouchehr Mottaki declined to identify a favorite among the remaining candidates.

“We try not to take part before the final result of the election in the United States and then we will look to their policies,” Mr. Mottaki said.

“What is very clear in the United States is that everybody is looking for changes that is very important,” he said. “The foreign policy of the United States will affect this presidential election, and that’s why all the candidates are trying to say something new to public opinion.”

Iran has already become a major issue in the campaign, with Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate, criticizing and ridiculing Sen. Barack Obama’s position that he would meet with Iran’s president.

Incidentally, the slogan of the Obama campaign is “Change We Can Believe In.”

“We do not consider the different candidates and what they say,” Mr. Mottaki said. “We look to the policies of the United States towards our region in general and towards Iran in particular.”

During the conference, the first annual review of the so-called International Compact with Iraq, Miss Rice and Iraq’s leaders pressed Sunni Arabs to cancel billions of dollars in Iraqi debt and reopen embassies in the war-torn country, which they promised a year ago but have yet to deliver.

Mr. Mottaki did not miss a chance to take a shot at the United States, with Miss Rice rolling her eyes and smirking as he spoke in the conference room.

“Due to the mistaken policies pursued by the occupiers in Iraq, the situation of security in Iraq is now so grave that it has cast its shadow on life in this country,” he said.

Miss Rice said that there have been “really significant improvements in security” in recent months.

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