Ahmadinejad says talks with US possible

Iranian president reciprocates after Obama says he will "look for openings" to create dialogue.

ahmadinejad waves finger around 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
ahmadinejad waves finger around 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday the world was entering a "new era of dialogue" and his country would welcome talks based on mutual respect with the United States, its longtime adversary. Ahmadinejad's announcement comes a day after US President Barack Obama said his administration was looking for opportunities to engage Iran and pledged to rethink Washington's relationship with Teheran. "The Iranian nation is ready for talks (with the US) but in a fair atmosphere with mutual respect," Ahmadinejad told hundreds of thousands of Iranians during a celebration marking the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution that toppled the US-backed shah and brought hard-line clerics to power. The hard-line Iranian leader said terrorism, the elimination of nuclear weapons, restructuring the UN Security Council and fighting drug trafficking could be topics for the two sides to talk about. "If you really want to fight terrorism, come and cooperate with the Iranian nation, which is the biggest victim of terrorism, so that terrorism is eliminated. ... If you want to confront nuclear weapons ... you need to stand beside Iran so it can introduce a correct path to you," he said. Ahmadinejad said the world was at a "crossroads" because it had been proven that military power has not been successful - a reference to the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But now, he said, "the world is entering an era of dialogue and intellect." "The new US government has announced that it wants to bring changes and follow the path of dialogue. It is very clear that changes have to be fundamental and not tactical. It is clear that the Iranian nation welcomes true changes," Ahmadinejad told the crowds at the rally in Freedom Square. He added that the "world does not want to see the dark age of Bush repeated." "The fate that befell Bush - and it was a very bad fate - can be viewed as a lesson for most of the people that ... want to impose their will on the world," he said. Since his campaign for president, Obama has signaled a willingness for a dialogue with Iran. At his inauguration last month, Obama said his administration would reach out to Muslims, saying "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." On Monday, Obama said his national security team was reviewing its existing Iran policy and "looking at areas where we can have constructive dialogue." He said he expected that his administration would be looking for "openings" where Washington and Teheran can sit face-to-face. Iranian leaders have struck a moderate - but cautious - tone about Obama since his election in November. Ahmadinejad sent Obama a message of congratulations after he was elected - the first time an Iranian leader offered such wishes to the winner of a US presidential race since the two countries broke off relations. Israel was not taken by surprise by Obama's announcement, with one official saying that Israeli conversations over the last few weeks with the new administration - from Obama himself to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Middle East envoy George Mitchell - have dealt with the Iranian situation. "We have expressed our concern that the Iranian tactic is to talk, talk, talk, while continuing to spin the centrifuges at the same time," one official said. "The Americans are equally aware of this Iranian strategy." The official sidestepped the question of whether Jerusalem told Washington point-blank that engagement with Iran was a mistake. "President Obama has in every public and private utterance reiterated his total and complete opposition to Iran going nuclear," the official said. "The administration is in the process of formulating its policy of how to pursue that goal, but on the goal itself there is no debate."