Page last updated at 12:16 GMT, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Iran sees Obama 'on wrong path'

Ayatollah Khamenei
Ayatollah Khamenei was opening a forum on supporting the Palestinians

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, says the new US president is following the same misguided track in the Middle East as his predecessor.

Barack Obama is on the same "wrong path" as George Bush despite his pledge of new thinking, the Ayatollah says.

When he was sworn in, Mr Obama said the United States was ready to talk to Iran if it unclenched its fist.

But Ayatollah Khamenei says although Mr Obama came to power with slogans about change he is still committed to Israel.

Speaking at a conference in Tehran, Ayatollah Khamenei said Israeli leaders should be brought to trial for their last military incursion into Gaza, in which more than 1,000 Palestinians were killed.

"Supporting Palestinians is a mandatory duty," he said, in an appeal for all Muslims to join forces against what he called "Zionist criminals".

'Path to salvation'

Ayatollah Khamenei's speech comes as Hillary Clinton continues her first mission to the Middle East since becoming Secretary of State.

She has been meeting Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to pursue the strategy of establishing separate Palestinian and Israeli states, side by side.

Iranian leaders, including Mr Khamenei and the President, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, are opposed to this two-state policy.

Mr Khamenei said it was a mistake to say the only way to save the Palestinians was by negotiation.

"The way to salvation," he said, "is to stand firm and resist."

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