Iranian parliament speaker slams Obama

Larijani says country doubts US president's ME policy will be different from Bush administration.

Larijani 224.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Larijani 224.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran's parliament speaker said his country has doubts that US President Barack Obama's Middle East policy will be different from the Bush administration, state television reported Sunday. Speaker Ali Larijani said Obama's stance on the crisis in Gaza and the United States' support for Israel have "created many doubts about the 'change' theory." He also cautioned that Obama's actions on Iran's disputed nuclear program would be "another test for the change word" used by the new president during his campaign. The more critical comments came days after Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki struck a moderate tone after Obama's inauguration. "We are ready for new approaches by the United States," he had said Wednesday. But Larijani's more skeptical words come after Obama made his first comments on the recent Gaza conflict since taking office on Tuesday. Obama struck themes familiar with Bush over the Gaza crisis, including supporting Israel's right to defend itself, criticizing rocket attacks by Hamas, lamenting civilian deaths in Gaza and favoring an international effort to develop a durable cease-fire. One Iranian hardline newspaper, Jomhuri Eslami, criticized Obama in its editorial on Sunday. "Obama took a negative and disappointing stance on Palestine," the editorial said in response to Obama's comments on Gaza. The US has not had any diplomatic mission in Iran since the seizure of the American Embassy and hostage crisis during Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, and during the Bush administration, the two countries had an increasingly tense relationship. Teheran and Washington have been deeply at odds over Iran's nuclear program and what the US says is Iranian support for Shi'ite Muslim militiamen in neighboring Iraq - a charge Iran denies. Obama has said he would seek dialogue with Iran to defuse the years-long confrontation over Teheran's nuclear ambitions and support of terrorists groups around the Middle East. But the new president has not been specific on what incentives Washington might offer to end the deadlock between the two countries. Mottaki said Teheran was waiting for "practical policies" from the Obama administration before making any specific judgments. Iran's two most powerful figures - Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - have been unusually silent on Obama in the past months. "The Iranian leaders have been silent since they are waiting for practical steps by new US administration. They are waiting for the US to take the first step," said Saeed Laylaz, a political analyst in Teheran.