Iran's hard-line president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded to initial overtures from the new US administration by demanding an apology for America’s past “crimes”.
Ahmadinejad’s comments came after President Barack Obama indicated a new willingness to reach out to Muslims and the importance of engaging with Iran, a country the Bush administration singled out as the most dangerous in the region.
Without mentioning Mr Obama by name, Ahmadinejad repeatedly referred to those who want to bring “change”, a word used often in the Obama election campaign, and seemed to indicate Iran would be looking to see whether there would be substantive differences in US policy.
“We will wait patiently, listen to their words carefully, scrutinise their actions under a magnifier and if change happens truly and fundamentally, we will welcome that,” Ahmadinejad said.
But he also criticised the US, saying it should apologise to Iran. “The change will be to apologise to the Iranian nation and try to compensate for their dark records and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation,” he said.
He also called on Washington to withdraw its troops from around the world and stop supporting Israel. “Change means giving up support for the rootless, uncivilised, fabricated, murdering... Zionists and let the Palestinian nation decide its own destiny,” he said. “Change means putting an end to US military presence in (different spots of) the world.”
On Tuesday, Mr Obama condemned Iran’s threats to destroy Israel and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, but he said “it is important for us to be willing to talk”.