Iran Says It Welcomes 'Real Changes' With United States
February 10, 2009
(RFE/RL) -- Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, in a speech marking the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, said that Iran is ready for talks with the United States, provided they are fair and based on mutual respect.
Ahmadinejad, addressing a crowd gathered at the Azadi (Freedom) square, said changes in the U.S. approach toward Iran under President Barack Obama must be "fundamental and not tactical."
"It is clear the Iranian nation welcomes real changes," he said.
Ahmadinejad’s comments came a day after Obama renewed its call for direct talks with the Islamic republic. The United States broke its ties with Iran following the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the hostage-taking of U.S. diplomats in Tehran.
Obama, in a news conference on February 9, said his administration will be looking for "openings" in the months ahead that could lead to face-to-face talks between the United States and Iran.
Obama said Washington seeks a new approach despite concerns over Iran's nuclear activities and support for Hamas and Hizballah.
'Brother Of All Nations'
In his speech, Ahmadinejad described Iran as a major power that wants to have friendly relations with the rest of the world.
"Even though Iran is a big power, it is the brother of all nations, especially the nations in the region," he said. "Today, with the grace of God, relations between the Iranian nation and other nations in the region are friendly and brotherly."
Iranian news agencies report that tens of thousands of Iranians participating in the February 10 rally in Tehran chanted slogans such as: "Nuclear energy is our alienable right"; "Death to America"; and "Death to Israel."
Iran's official news agency (IRNA) says many Iranian and foreign reporters were in attendance to cover what the agency described as "Iran’s nuclear referendum."
Iran's establishment portrays the annual celebrations as a sign of popular support for the Islamic system and its policies. But many everyday Iranians express disillusionment with the results of the revolution, saying it has failed to live up to its promises of freedom and justice, among other things.
"This revolution brought nothing to people but misery," one Iranian said in a phone call to RFE/RL's Radio Farda. "Come to Iran and see the people's situation. One day is Gaza Day; one day is Hamas Day; Basij Day; Revolutionary Guard Day. One day[it's] 'Death to America,' the next 'Death to Israel.' That's all [officials] do. When will it be the day of the miserable Iranians?"
Tensions Over Nuclear Issue
The February 10 anniversary commemorates the victory of the revolution following the return to Iran from exile of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic. The country has in the past 10 days held a variety of event marking the 1979 events.
This year's celebrations are being held amid tensions over Iran's sensitive nuclear activities. While Iran has said its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and for civilian purposes, the United States and several other Western countries have expressed fears that it could be used to cover the development of nuclear weapons.
As part of its festivities on February 3, Iran said it had launched into orbit its first home-built satellite. The launch raised concerns in Washington and Western capitals about the weapons potential of the technology.
In Tehran, Ahmadinejad said that Iran would not be intimidated by Western threats, either in the form of sanctions or military attacks.
Copyright (c) 2009. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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