Deliberations within the Obama administration over whether to offer an olive branch to Iran by sending a letter to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have been thrown into turmoil by his belligerent demand for an apology.
President Barack Obama has been considering how to respond to a letter from Mr Ahmadinejad congratulating him after his election. It has been reported that at least three drafts of a response have been considered.
But in his first speech since Mr Obama’s inauguration, Mr Ahmadinejad was typically uncompromising, making no concessions to the change of leadership in America.
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“If you talk about change, you must put an end to the US military presence in the world, withdraw your troops and take them back inside your borders,” he said.
The United States should “stop interfering in other people’s affairs,” said Mr Ahmadinejad. If Mr Obama behaved like George W. Bush, then “our response will be the same that we gave to Bush during the past years,” he said.
In his first television interview, Mr Obama had commended Iranians as a “great people” with a “great civilisation”, adding: “If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.”