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Don’t expect thaw in U.S.-Iran relations

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaks on Iranian TV. A photo of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei is in the background.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaks on Iranian TV. A photo of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei is in the background.

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s supreme leader said Wednesday that his country’s hatred for the United States runs deep and differences between the two nations go beyond a “few political issues.”

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments on state-run television less than a week before the American presidential elections were seen as a signal that a thaw in U.S.-Iran relations was not expected no matter who wins the Nov. 4 race.

Khamenei said the hatred is rooted in 50 years of U.S. intervention in Iran’s domestic affairs and hostility toward Tehran.

“The hatred of the Iranian nation is deep-seated. The reason is the various conspiracies by the U.S. government against the Iranian people and government in the past 50 years,” Khamenei said.

He was addressing a group of students in Tehran days ahead of the 29th anniversary of the 1979 storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by militant students.

Iran blames the CIA for helping topple the elected government of Mohammad Mosaddeq in the 1950s and blames the United States for openly supporting the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi against the 1979 Islamic revolution that led to the collapse of the dynasty.

Iranians also condemn Washington for arming and supporting former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

“This dispute (with America) goes further than differences of opinion over a few political issues,” the leader said.

Iranian political analyst Saeed Leilaz said Khamenei’s address sent a clear message that he will have to approve any efforts for reconciliation with U.S.

“Khamenei wants the U.S. and Iranian political factions to know that he will be in control of any efforts to politically restore their relations,” said Leilaz.

Leilaz said Khamenei is also telling Iran’s political factions not to get excited should Barack Obama win the U.S. presidential race.

Iran’s government refused to publicly side with any of the U.S. candidates, but Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani said last week that Obama seemed “more rational” than rival John McCain.

Obama, a Democrat, has called for direct diplomacy with Iranian leaders that he says would give the U.S. more credibility to press for tougher sanctions — though Obama now says he’s not sure hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the right person to meet with.

McCain, a Republican, has said he favors tougher sanctions against Iran and opposes direct high-level talks with Ahmadinejad.

The United States and Iran have had no diplomatic relations since the 1979 embassy storming.

The atmosphere between the two countries improved marginally under former President Mohammad Khatami, who encouraged athletic and cultural exchanges.

But it deteriorated after the Sept. 11 attacks when President Bush declared that Iran belonged to an “axis of evil” with North Korea and Saddam’s regime in Iraq.

Since taking office in 2005, Ahmadinejad has widened the gap with Washington by taking a hardline stance on Iran’s nuclear program and calling for Israel’s destruction.

The U.S. and some of its allies accuse Iran of developing nuclear weapons, but Iran insists its program is peaceful.

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