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News number: 8801240842

14:42 | 2009-04-13


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Ahmadinejad: Ball in Obama Court

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said bridging the chasm between Tehran and Washington requires genuine change and time.

"Naturally, we cannot expect to see problems that have arisen over more than half a century resolved in only a few days. We are neither obstinate nor gullible," Ahmadinejad said in an interview with the German weekly Spiegel.

"We are realists. The important thing is the determination to bring about improvements. If you change the atmosphere, solutions can be found," he told the German weekly according to press tv.

Ahmadinejad rejected the idea that Iran should take the first step toward mending ties with the US, stressing that it was Washington that severed relations with Tehran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Ahmadinejad touched upon US support for former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hossein who waged a devastating eight year war against Iran and used German-supplied chemical weapons against Iran's civilian population.

The president said 'changes in the choice of language' were not 'enough' to undo decades of US hostility towards the Iranian people.

He also commented on a March 20 message that Obama sent out to mark Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, and said that he felt 'unsure' about it.

Obama's Nowruz message was mixed with a promise to bring 'new beginnings' to the relations with Tehran and accusations about the country sponsoring terrorism and pursuing nuclear weapons.

"Some passages were new, while some repeated well-known positions… It is also positive that he stresses mutual respect and honest interactions with one another as the basis of cooperation," said the president.

"In one segment of his speech, he says that a nation's standing in the world does not depend solely on weapons and military strength, which is precisely what we told the previous American administration," he added.

Ahmadinejad pointed out, however, that for any progress to be made 'Obama must now follow his words with actions' by defying certain power thirsty lobbies within the US that do not want to see a peaceful end to the nuclear dispute with Tehran.

"On the one hand, America needs Iran and must newly realign itself. On the other hand, the new US president is under pressure from these groups. Courageous decisions are needed, and the ball is in Obama's court," he said.

During the interview, Ahmadinejad totally rejected US allegations that Iran is sponsoring terrorism.

"We do not commit terror, but we are victims of terror…our president and prime minister were killed in a bombing at the building next to my office," he said, referring to the 1981 assassination of Mohammad-Ali Rajai and Mohammad-Javad Bahonar.

The Iranian president also pointed to Tehran's constructive role in fighting the Taliban militia in Afghanistan and its readiness to help improve the situation there-an issue that some analysts believe may help break the ice between Iran and the US.

"I repeat: A stronger military presence is not a solution," said Ahmadinejad, insisting that 'Obama's new policy is wrong.'

"The Americans are not familiar with the region, and the perceptions of the NATO commanders are mistaken. I am telling you this as a trained teacher: This is wrong," he insisted.

"More than $250 billion has been spent on the military campaign in Afghanistan to date. With a population of 30 million, that comes to more than $8,000 a person, or close to $42,000 for an average family of five," said Ahmadinejad.

"Factories and roads could have been built, universities established and fields cultivated for the Afghan people. If that had happened, would there have been any room left for terrorists? ...The solution for Afghanistan is not military, but humanitarian."