Tehran welcomes Obama's olive branch, urges concrete action

Iran has welcomed US President Barack Obama's offer for a fresh start, while calling for concrete action. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana voiced hope that Obama's video message will mark a "new chapter" in relations with Tehran.


AFP - A top advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Friday welcomed US President Barack Obama's olive branch to Tehran but urged him to back his words with concrete action to repair past mistakes.

"We welcome the wish of the president of the United States to put away past differences," Ahmadinejad's press advisor Ali Akbar Javanfekr told AFP in reaction to Obama's message at Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, in which he urged a resolution of differences and an "honest" engagement with Tehran.

"But the way to do that is not by Iran forgetting the previous hostile and aggressive attitude of the United States," Javanfekr said, responding when AFP read to him extracts of Obama's statement.

"The American administration has to recognise its past mistakes and repair them as a way to put away the differences."

Javanfekr said Obama has talked of change but had "not taken any concrete steps to repair the mistakes committed against Iran."

"He has to go further than words and take action. If Obama shows willingness to take action, the Iranian government will not show its back to him."

Javanfekr said Iran wanted to end the "animosities" between the two countries who have had no diplomatic relations since 1980.

But he stressed that Obama has to make a "fundamental change in attitude" and take "the opportunity presented by Nowruz, which signifies a change in the nature (start of spring)."

Javanfekr said the differences mentioned by Obama are a result of the "hostile, aggressive and colonialist attitude of the American government."

"The United States is mainly responsible for these differences and if it does not address them, they will remain," he said.

Javanfekr cited a series of incidents that have triggered the three-decade rivalry between Washington and Tehran.

He said Iran would never forget the role the US played when Iran's prime minister Mohammad Mossadeq was overthrown in a coup in 1953, neither would it forget the 1988 shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane by a US warship in which all 290 people aboard were killed.

He added that Tehran would also not forget America's support for Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the sanctions it levied against Iran nor its support for Iran's main militant opposition group, the People's Mujahideen of Iran.

"But this attitude of the United States did not weaken us and now the Islamic Republic of Iran is very strong in the world," he said.

"The only source of instability in the region is the American military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Javanfekr added that the "blind support" by the United States of Israel was also a cause of friction between the two countries.

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