Atul Aneja

DUBAI: Iran has said that it would change its stance towards the United States after Washington takes tangible steps to establish that it has changed its attitude towards Tehran.

In a televised address in the city of Mashhad, a day after U.S. President Barack Obama called for a new beginning in the troubled U.S.-Iran relationship, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said: “We have no experience with the new American government and the new American President. We will observe them and we will judge. If you change your attitude, we will change our attitude.” The supreme leader is the final decision making authority in Iran. Ayatollah Khamenei stressed that change (by the Americans) only in words is not enough. He added: “He [Mr.Obama] offers us his hand with a velvet glove under which, however, might be a cast-iron hand.” Iran’s top leader listed several issues of the last 30 years, which, in his view, had embittered Tehran-Washington ties. He referred to U.S. support to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, which was followed by a bitter eight-year Iran-Iraq war soon after the Iranian revolution of 1979. He also mentioned the downing of an Iranian airliner in 1988 as well as the recent accusations that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons as evidence of Washington’s ceaseless hostility towards Tehran. Referring to Mr. Obama’s remarks on Friday, alluding to Iran’s links with terrorism and weapons, Ayatollah Khamenei said: “The new U.S. President sends us a Persian New Year greeting message, but in the same accuses us again to support terrorism and to be after nuclear weapons.”

The Iranian leader reiterated that his country was looking practical changes on the ground as a precondition for an engagement with the Americans. “Have you released Iranian assets? Have you lifted oppressive sanctions? Have you given up mudslinging and making accusations against the great Iranian nation and its officials? Have you given up your unconditional support for the Zionist regime?” he asked.

Earlier, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, a top adviser of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also stressed that Tehran was looking for concrete action from Washington so that ties could improve.