Iran to US: If you want talks, stop accusations

Foreign Ministry spokesman says balance of power in Middle East is changing, urges Washington to recognize those changes.

Iran said Wednesday that the United States needs to stop making "baseless" accusations against the Islamic Republic in order to pave the way for talks between the two longtime adversaries. During celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would welcome talks with the United States - but only if there was mutual respect. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said this can be interpreted to mean that the US should stop leveling accusations against Iran if it wants relations to improve. The US accuses Iran of supporting terrorism and secretly seeking to build nuclear weapons - charges Iran denies. "There are manners to holding talks. And the manners require giving up the repeated baseless charges," Qashqavi told reporters. But he also said President Barack Obama should be given sufficient time to allow him to make changes and pursue his calls for dialogue with Iran. "We have no intention of making any pre-judgements. We think that Mr. Obama should be given time ... to make fundamental changes," Qashqavi said. Since Obama's election in November, Iranian leaders have struck a cautious tone over his campaign promises to open a dialogue with Tehran. But on Tuesday, Ahmadinejad made it clear Iran is prepared to talk, citing terrorism, the elimination of nuclear weapons, restructuring the UN Security Council and fighting drug trafficking as possible topics. Ahmadinejad also declared that Iran is now a "superpower" - pointing to the recent launch of the first locally made satellite into space - and signaled that Iran expects to be treated as an equal. Obama said Monday that his administration was looking for opportunities to engage Iran and pledged to rethink Washington's relationship with Tehran. At his inauguration last month, Obama said his administration would reach out to rival states, saying "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." But spokesman Qashqavi said Iran never showed a clenched fist. "We never clenched our fists. It was Bush that showed his clenched fist to Mideast nations," he said, referring to former President George W. Bush. Qashqavi said Iran will take "appropriate steps" should it witness practical measures from the Obama administration. He didn't elaborate, but he made it clear that any major foreign policy decision had to be approved by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Qashqavi also said the balance of power in the Middle East was changing and urged Washington to recognize the changes. He was referring to Hizbullah and Hamas. "We recommend to the new US administration to take such changes into consideration. ... The (2006) 33-day war was to destroy Hizbullah. But the realities on the ground are different," he said, without elaborating.