Iran's Supreme Leader sees no change under Obama administration
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed overtures from U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday, saying Tehran does not see any change in American policy under its new administration. Khamenei was responding to a video message Obama released Friday in which he reached out to Iran on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian new year, and expressed hopes for an improvement in nearly 30 years of strained relations.
According to the AP, Khamenei said there will be no change between the two countries unless the American president puts an end to U.S. hostility toward Iran and brings "real changes" in foreign policy. "They chant the slogan of change but no change is seen in practice. We haven't seen any change," Khamenei said in a speech before a crowd of tens of thousands in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad.
Khamenei asked how Obama could congratulate Iranians on the new year and accuse the country of supporting terrorism and seeking nuclear weapons in the same message. According to Khamenei, there has been no change even in Obama's language compared to that of his predecessor.
"He (Obama) insulted the Islamic Republic of Iran from the first day. If you are right that change has come, where is that change? What is the sign of that change? Make it clear for us what has changed."
Still, Khamenei left the door open to better ties with America, saying "should you change, our behavior will change too."
Khamenei spoke about past events that damaged the relations between the two sides. He mentioned U.S. sanctions against Iran, U.S. support for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during his 1980-88 war against Iran and the downing of an Iranian airliner over the Persian Gulf in 1988.
He also accused the U.S. of provoking ethnic tension in Iran and said Washington's accusations that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons are a sign of U.S. hostility. Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, like energy production, not for building weapons. "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? Even the language remains unchanged," Khamenei said.
Khamenei said America was hated around the world for its arrogance, as the crowd chanted "Death to America."
Khamenei said sanctions only served to make Iran self-reliant. "Sanctions benefited us. We have to thank the Americans in this sector. If sanctions had not been imposed, we would have not reached the point of progress and technology we are in now," he said.