- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2009


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for “profound changes” in U.S. foreign policy during a speech Wednesday, saying the Islamic Republic would welcome a real and fundamental shift by the new American administration.

Mr. Ahmadinejad made his comments in the western city of Kermanshah after President Obama indicated a new willingness to reach out to Muslims and the importance of engaging with Iran, a country that the Bush administration often singled out as the most dangerous in the region.

Without mentioning Mr. Obama by name, Mr. Ahmadinejad repeatedly referred to those who want to bring “change,” a word used often in Mr. Obama’s election campaign, and indicated that Iran would be watching for any substantive differences in U.S. policy.

“We will wait patiently, listen to their words carefully, scrutinize their actions under a magnifier and, if change happens truly and fundamentally, we will welcome that,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said, speaking to a crowd of thousands.

But the Iranian leader also criticized the United States, saying it should apologize to Iran for past misdeeds.

“The change will be to apologize to the Iranian nation and try to compensate for their dark records and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation,” he said.

The hard-line president also called on Washington to withdraw its troops from around the world and stop supporting Israel.

In an interview with Al-Arabiya news channel that aired Tuesday, Mr. Obama condemned Iran’s threats to destroy Israel and its purported pursuit of nuclear weapons, but said “it is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran, to express very clearly where our differences are, but where there are potential avenues for progress.”

Later Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters that the U.S. administration is undertaking a wide-ranging and comprehensive survey of U.S. foreign policy options toward Iran.

Mrs. Clinton also said Iran had a “clear opportunity” to demonstrate some willingness to engage meaningfully with the international community.

The U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Iran after hard-line students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

Meanwhile, an aide to the Iranian president said Mr. Ahmadinejad will run for president again in June.

“Naturally [Mr. Ahmadinejad] will become a candidate for the next election and will put himself before the people’s vote. Of course he is doing this to complete his duties,” Aliakbar Javanfekr, a close aide to the president, told Reuters news agency.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s rivals on June 12 could include moderate politician Mohammed Khatami, whose presidency from 1997 to 2005 was marked by improved ties with the West that have since deteriorated.

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