Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Sunday, 21 March 2010

Iranian leader accuses US of plotting against Iran

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks on 20 March 2010
Ayatollah Khamenei criticised US support for anti-government protesters

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has used a televised Iranian New Year address to accuse the US of plotting against the country.

He said the US government could not "talk about peace and friendship and at the same time plot and plan sedition".

His words come a day after President Barack Obama sent a new year video message to Iranians saying Washington's offer of dialogue still stood.

However, the Iranian leader did not refer directly to Mr Obama's message.

In his address in the north-eastern city of Mashhad, broadcast on state TV, Ayatollah Khamenei said the US might have been making friendly overtures but its policies showed its intentions were different.

"Eight months after the elections they took the worst possible stance," he said. "The president called those rioters and saboteurs 'civil rights activists'."

Washington has criticised the Iranian authorities for cracking down on protesters in a series of large-scale clashes following a disputed presidential election last June.

US President Barack Obama: "Our offer of comprehensive diplomatic contacts and dialogue stands"

In his video message, Mr Obama said the Iranian government had "chosen to isolate itself" but that the US still wanted justice and dignity for Iranians, and less internet censorship.

"Even as we continue to have differences with the Iranian government, we will sustain our commitment to a more hopeful future for the Iranian people." he said.

It was the second such recording sent by the US president for the festival of Nowruz, a 12-day holiday celebrating the beginning of the New Year on the Persian calendar.

Last year he became the first US leader for decades to reach out directly to Iran's people and government, offering a "new beginning" in US-Iranian relations.

But since then, Mr Obama's offers of engagement over Iran's nuclear ambitions have been largely spurned, and US efforts to impose new sanctions have been slow to find wide support from UN members.

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