Page last updated at 12:11 GMT, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Iran 'ready for dialogue with US'

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at rally in Tehran marking 30th anniversary of Islamic revolution - 10/2/2009
Mr Ahmadinejad said change from the US must be fundamental, not tactical

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he would welcome talks with the US as long as they were based on "mutual respect".

Speaking on the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran, he said Iran would welcome change from the US as long as it was "fundamental".

Mr Ahmadinejad has previously said the US must apologise for past "crimes" against Iran.

The two nations cut ties in 1979 after the US-backed Shah was overthrown.

"The new US administration has announced that they want to produce change and pursue the course of dialogue," Mr Ahmadinejad said at a rally in central Tehran attended by tens of thousands of people.

"It is quite clear that real change must be fundamental and not tactical. It is clear the Iranian nation welcomes real changes and is ready for dialogue in a climate of equality and mutual respect."

US overtures

Mr Ahmadinejad's remarks come a day after US President Barack Obama said he was looking for "openings that can be created where we can start sitting across the table face-to-face".

"I think there's the possibility, at least, of a relationship of mutual respect and progress," Mr Obama said, but "it's time now for Iran to send some signals that it wants to act differently."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at rally in Tehran marking 30th anniversary of Islamic revolution - 10/2/2009
The world does not want the dark era of [George Bush] to be repeated
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

It was the latest in a series of positive remarks he has made about the possibility of direct US-Iranian talks.

Iran's leaders may not know how to react to Mr Obama's overtures, says the BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran, and it is not certain whether Mr Ahmadinejad's remarks are a rhetorical statement or a genuine opening for talks.

Despite congratulating Mr Obama on his election victory in November, Mr Ahmadinejad later called for the US to apologise for its past "crimes" against Iran and for the US to withdraw all its troops from around the world, in order for talks to be held.

That outburst followed an offer from Mr Obama to extend the hand of friendship to Iran if it "unclenched its fist".

The two countries cut ties in 1979 after Iranian students stormed the US embassy in Tehran and occupied it for 444 days, holding dozens of American diplomats hostage.


Iranians hold a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution

For the last 30 years, Iranian officials have regularly referred to the US as the "Great Satan".

Relations have worsened further in recent years as the US has led efforts to prevent Iran from further developing its nuclear programme, which some Western nations fear will lead to nuclear weapons.

Tehran says its nuclear programme is for civilian, energy-generating purposes only.

Relations reached a low under Mr Obama's predecessor, George Bush, who famously included Iran in what he called the "Axis of Evil", along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

"The world does not want the dark era of [George Bush] to be repeated," Mr Ahmadinejad warned at Tuesday's rally.

"If some people seek to repeat that experience... they should know they will face a much worse fate than Bush's."

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