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Iran: US must rethink policies for reconciliation

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ImageAP: Iran sternly dismissed decades of U.S. policies targeting Tehran and declared Friday that the new American administration had to admit past wrongs before it could hope for reconciliation.

The Associated Press

By GEORGE JAHN and DAVID RISING

ImageMUNICH (AP) — Iran sternly dismissed decades of U.S. policies targeting Tehran and declared Friday that the new American administration had to admit past wrongs before it could hope for reconciliation.

The comments by Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani at an international security conference in Munich appeared to be the most detailed outline yet of Tehran's expectations from President Barack Obama's administration.

"The old carrot and stick policy must be discarded," he said, alluding to Western threats and offers of rewards to coax Iran to give up nuclear activities the West views as threatening. "This is a golden opportunity for the United States."

Obama has said the U.S. is ready for direct talks with Iran in efforts to overcome concerns that its nuclear program could be used to develop atomic weapons. Tehran denies that and insists its aims are peaceful. The former U.S. administration refused one-on-one negotiations with Tehran on the issue unless it made significant nuclear concessions beforehand.

There was no immediate U.S. reaction to Larijani's comments.

Vice President Joe Biden was due the conference Saturday and was expected to try to muster more European troops for Afghanistan. But there is no sign that general European favor for the new U.S. administration has overcome the reluctance of some allies to contribute more soldiers.

The U.S. plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, roughly doubling its presence. But coming into the conference, German officials have reiterated that they do not want to commit to more forces. Still, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said before the meetings that did not mean the door to such discussions was closed.

Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is expected to push allies at the conference for a greater share of the diplomatic, military and economic burdens confronting the Obama administration in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Larijani evaded a question on whether he planned to meet with Biden, but said Washington needed to change its tactics in engaging Iran, "to a chess game from a boxing match."

Senior Iranian officials have cautiously welcomed the new U.S. proposal of direct talks. But on Friday, Larijani, his country's former chief nuclear negotiator, delivered a blistering condemnation of what he described as failed and evil U.S. actions against his country and in the region. He declared the U.S. had to own up to the past before it could hope for a better future with Iran.

"In the past years, the U.S. has burned many bridges but the new White House can rebuild them" if it "accepts its mistakes and changes its policies," Larijani said.

He condemned Washington's backing for Iraq in its 1980s war against Iran and its support of Israel. Larijani said those policies and others in the region failed in their declared purpose of rooting out terrorism and finding hidden weapons of mass destruction.

On the nuclear standoff, he said, Washington "has tried to sabotage any diplomatic solution." Without U.S. acknowledgment of failure and wrongdoing, "do you expect this pain to go away?" he asked.

Outside the conference, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband criticized Tehran's decision to launch a satellite this week, while Germany's foreign minister urged Iran to engage in direct diplomacy with the U.S.

Iran launched a satellite Monday — touching off concerns among experts in Europe, the U.S. and Israel about the potential for links between Iran's satellite program and its work with missiles and nuclear technology.

Speaking outside the gathering of a dozen world leaders and more than 50 top ministers, Miliband said that even if the launch was for civilian purposes as Iran claims, it sent the wrong signal, considering Obama's offer to talk directly to defuse the nuclear crisis.

"Given that President Obama said that he was stretching out a hand if Iran would unclench its fist, I don't think that this was an unclenching of a fist," Miliband told AP Television News.

He also urged Iran to work with the IAEA to disprove suspicions that its nuclear activities were geared toward producing weapons — and warned of new penalties if it does not.

"The commitment of the new American administration to engage with Iran is right and important, but if Iran defies international opinion then there inevitably have to be stronger and tougher sanctions," he said, referring to the possibility of new U.N. Security Council measures.

Larijani dismissed Miliband's concerns about the launch. "What possible causes for concern can that satellite be?" he asked. "This satellite is not a weapon of mass destruction."

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