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Iran leader slams Obama's 'slogan'

IRAN'S supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei labeled United States President Barack Obama's offer of better ties a "slogan" yesterday but pledged Tehran would respond to any real policy shift by Washington.

Speaking a day after Obama's videotaped overture, Khamenei, Iran's most powerful figure with final say on all matters of state, said he saw no real change yet from the United States.

But he added: "You change, our behavior will change."

He sharply criticized US actions toward Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution, saying the US was "hated in the world" and should stop interfering in other countries.

"They give the slogan of change but in practice no change is seen ... We haven't seen any change," Khamenei said in a televised speech to mark the Iranian New Year.

During the speech at Iran's most prominent religious shrine in the northeastern city of Mashhad, the crowd chanted: "Death to America. Death to America."

Khamenei made clear his view that more was needed from Washington if it wanted better ties with his country.

"Now the new American administration says: we would like to negotiate with Iran, let's forget the past," Khamenei told a big crowd of people that had gathered at the site in Mashhad.

On Friday Obama offered Iran a "new beginning" of diplomatic engagement between the two old foes.

US-Iranian relations have been almost deep-frozen for decades, and remain blighted by differences over Iran's nuclear program, Iraq, Israel and other issues.

In a major shift from the policies of predecessor George W. Bush, who branded Iran part of an "axis of evil" and spearheaded a drive to isolate it, Obama has offered to extend a hand of peace to Tehran if it "unclenches its fist."


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