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Iran links talks to a U.S. policy shift

February 07, 2009|Associated Press

MUNICH, GERMANY — Iran on Friday sternly dismissed decades of U.S. policies targeting Tehran and declared that the new American administration had to admit past wrongs before it could hope for reconciliation.

The comments by Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani at an international security conference in Munich appeared to be the most detailed outline yet of Tehran's expectations from the Obama administration.

"The old carrot-and-stick policy must be discarded," he said, alluding to Western threats and offers of rewards to coax Iran to give up nuclear activities. "This is a golden opportunity for the United States."

President Obama has said the U.S. is ready for direct talks with Iran about concerns that its nuclear program could be used to develop atomic weapons. Tehran denies such ambitions and insists that its aims are peaceful. The Bush administration refused one-on-one negotiations with Tehran on the issue unless it made significant nuclear concessions beforehand.

Senior Iranian officials have cautiously welcomed the new U.S. proposal. But on Friday, Larijani, his country's former chief nuclear negotiator, delivered a blistering condemnation of what he described as failed and evil U.S. actions against his country and in the region. He said the U.S. had to own up to the past before it could hope for a better future with Iran.

"In the past years, the U.S. has burned many bridges, but the new White House can rebuild them" if it "accepts its mistakes and changes its policies," Larijani said.

He condemned Washington's backing for Iraq in its 1980s war with Iran and its support of Israel. Larijani said those policies and others in the region failed in their declared purpose of rooting out terrorism and finding hidden weapons of mass destruction.

On the nuclear standoff, he said Washington "has tried to sabotage any diplomatic solution."

Without U.S. acknowledgment of failure and wrongdoing, "do you expect this pain to go away?" he said.

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