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Saturday, 25 March, 2000, 15:58 GMT
Khamenei rejects US overtures
Khamenei
Ayatollah Khamenei says the US acts as an oppressor
The Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has criticised as "deceitful and belated" recent moves by the United States to improve relations with Tehran.

Speaking during a Shiite religious ceremony in the north-eastern holy city of Mashhad, the ayatollah said American admission of wrongdoing against Iran was not enough.



America can't do a damn thing

Ayatollah Khamenei
"The Iranian nation and its authorities consider the United States to be their enemy because America's past behaviour is full of acts of hostility and treason," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

He was referring to a last week speech by the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, calling for renewed efforts by the two countries to end two decades of animosity.

On that occasion, Mrs Albright also announced a lifting on import bans on Iranian goods such as carpets, pistachios and caviar.

"Shortsightedness"

Mrs Albright lamented past "shortsightedness" in US policy, particularly during the Iran-Iraq war when Washington backed President Saddam Hussein.


pistachios
US has lifted import bans on some Iranian goods such as pistachios
"The Americans are presuming that such acknowledgements, which did not even include an apology, will cause the Iranian nation to forget America's acts of treason, hostilities and injustices," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

"America can't do a damn thing," Ayatollah Khamenei added, repeating a popular slogan of the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

Ayatollah Khamenei's comments contrast with earlier statements by the Iranian foreign ministry which cautiously welcomed Mrs Albright's remarks.

Split

The BBC Iranian affairs analyst Sadeq Saba says it appears that an open split is emerging in the Iranian leadership between conservatives and reformists about how to respond to the US recent moves.

Reformists were not happy with some aspects of Mrs Albright's speech and accused her of repeating old allegations against Iran such supporting international terrorism.


Albright
Mrs Albright has announced the lifting of some sanctions against Iran
But they generally believe that a rapprochement with the United States could help Iran to gain more international credibility and overcome its huge economic problems.

Conservatives have taken a generally negative line towards Mrs Albright's overture.

They have continued their hostility towards improvement of relations with what they term as the Great Satan.

Ayatollah Khamenei is constitutionally responsible for the general direction of the Iranian policy.

Sadeq Saba says that as long as Ayatollah Khamenei continues his current anti-American stance, prospects for normal relations with Washington and Tehran are not bright.

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