03/21/2009, 00.00
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Iran, Khamenei dictates conditions for dialogue with Obama

The Iranian spiritual leader asks for changes in U.S. policy before opening diplomatic channels. The lifting of sanctions and unfreezing of assets are the first concrete steps. Khamenei's apparent closure is intended to prevent divisions inside the country.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's highest authority, is calling for substantial changes in American foreign policy as a precondition for the opening of new relations between the country. The appeal issued yesterday by U.S. president Barack Obama, for a "new beginning" in U.S.-Iran relations is therefore being marked return to sender by the regime of the ayatollahs, who are expecting "concrete actions" before opening diplomatic channels.

In a speech to the crowd gathered in the sacred city of Mashhad and broadcast on live television, Khamenei said that he sees no change in the policy and attitude of the United States. The spiritual leader recalls America's renewed support for Israel, and the sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear program. Khamenei says that the "change" announced by the new U.S. administration is nothing but a façade, and is calling for "the easing of some sanctions" as a concrete first step.

International analysts maintain that the apparent closure of the Iranian spiritual leader is more a domestic political move then a real statement of position on the U.S. president's speech. Obama's words could, in fact, create divisions between Iran's moderate front and the more radical wing. The request for the lifting of sanctions and the unfreezing of assets, moreover, could be the signal of a concrete desire for dialogue.

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