Home > Country, Economy, World News > Iran Offers ‘Dialogue With Respect’ With U.S.

Iran Offers ‘Dialogue With Respect’ With U.S.

TEHRAN — After the icy mutual hostility of the Bush era, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran on Tuesday made a conditional offer of dialogue to the Obama administration, saying Tehran was ready for “talks based on mutual respect and in a fair atmosphere.”

Hasan Sarbakhshian/Associated Press

Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke at a rally on Tuesday in Tehran marking the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in 1979.

But he coupled the offer with an attack on former President Bush, calling for him to be “tried and punished” for his policies and actions in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks came in a televised address to a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in 1979 which deposed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, ended the close relationship between Washington and Tehran, and replaced it with decades of confrontation that culminated in former President Bush’s description of Iran as part of an “axis of evil.”

Since the inauguration of President Obama last month, however, Washington has sounded a more conciliatory tone, despite profound differences over Iran’s nuclear program and its support for political groups in the Middle East that the United States considers to be terrorists.

“The new U.S. administration has said that it wants change and it wants to hold talks with Iran,” President Ahmadinejad said.

“It is clear that change should be fundamental, not tactical, and our people welcome real changes,” he said. “Our nation is ready to hold talks based on mutual respect and in a fair atmosphere.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad went on to say that Iran could cooperate with the United States to uproot terrorism in the region. “The Iranian nation is the biggest victim of terrorism,” he said.

But he referred to former President Bush as one of reasons for insecurity in the region and said, “Bush and his allies should be tried and punished.”

“If you really want to uproot terrorism, let’s cooperate to find the initiators of the recent wars in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region, try them and punish them,” he said.

His comments follow a series of overtures from Washington and seemed to move away from an earlier call by Mr. Ahmadinejad for the United States to apologize for actions in the relationship with Iran dating back 60 years.

Shortly after his inauguration, Mr. Obama told the Arabic-language television station Al Arabiya that “if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.”

Referring to Iran on Monday, Mr. Obama said at a news conference that he was “looking at areas where we can have constructive dialogue, where we can directly engage with them.”

“My expectation,” he said, “is that in the coming months we will be looking for openings that can be created where we can start sitting across the table face to face.”

Last weekend, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. indicated at a security conference in Munich, Germany, that the United States would take a nuanced approach toward Iran. He suggested that the administration was willing to be more conciliatory than Mr. Bush had been, but also to continue his tough policies if necessary.

“We are willing to talk to Iran,” Mr. Biden said, but quickly tacked back to a refrain common during the last years of the Bush presidency, offering Iran’s leader a choice: “Continue down your current course and there will be pressure and isolation; abandon the illicit nuclear program and your support for terrorism, and there will be meaningful incentives.”

Many western nations, including the United States, reject Iran’s insistence that its nuclear program is designed solely for generating energy, suspecting that it is no more than a screen for a nuclear weapons program what would upset the regional power balance and potentially threaten Israel.

Washington also objects to Iran’s close ties to militant Islamic groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s choice of the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution seemed particularly significant. The United States had been a close supporter of the shah, but after his fall, radical students stormed the American Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. Washington broke off diplomatic relations with Tehran in 1980.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments came two days after a former Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami — a reformist politician who advocated more détente with the West — announced that he would challenge Mr. Ahmadinejad in presidential elections next June.

Mr. Khatami, who won an overwhelming victory in 1999 and was president until 2005, was elected on promises to grant greater political and social freedom and improve foreign relations.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s presidency, by contrast, has been marked by economic mismanagement, surging inflation and international isolation.

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