Iran's Khatami accuses US of ‘war-mongering’


Iran's moderate President Mr Mohammad Khatami said the US should apologise to Iran for past misdeeds if it wants better relations with the Islamic Republic, the official IRNA news agency said today.

US President George W. Bush on Friday expressed solidarity with Iranian students protesting against the Islamic Republic, saying their government "should listen to their hopes".

"The ones who are threatening the world with war through their war-mongering policies and misinterpretations, should abandon them and apologise to Iran and the Iranian government," IRNA quoted Mr Khatami as saying.

The reformist president, who has always argued in favour of trying to repair ties with Washington, said that only an apology could breach the "wall of mistrust".

Mr Khatami accused the United States of bowing to "certain lobbies" at the expense of its own national interests by threatening the world. "The American nation and influential figures of goodwill should stop war-seekers in their country before it falls into an abyss much worse than Vietnam war," said the normally mild-mannered president.

The United States has been seeking official talks with Iran since Mr Khatami won presidential elections in 1997. Former US President Bill Clinton made a succession of gestures but was repeatedly rebuffed by the Iranians.

Khatami said the Clinton administration had taken "some positive steps...Had they continued in some way, it could have been very positive for our relations. "But unfortunately the path was not continued by the United States' present government...and on the contrary the world and Iran have been threatened."

Mr Khatami said the original source of the disagreements between Iran and the United States was Washington's role in the overthrow of populist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, "to which a former US government officially confessed".

Some Iranian reformists have called for opening talks with the "Great Satan" while conservatives have demanded an end to dissent for the sake of national unity.

The president said the existence of political differences in Iran as a democratic country was natural but that all factions believed that they should unite against foreign threats.

Mr Bush in January labelled Iran part of an "axis of evil" for harbouring al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters fleeing from neighbouring Afghanistan and for developing weapons of mass destruction - charges Tehran denies.

"I assure the US and its war-seeking politicians that there is no dispute in Iran over confronting insults and foreign interference especially from the United States," Mr Khatami said.