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    Iran demands U.S. apology for 'past crimes' against Tehran

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    The Iranian president demanded during a televised speech on Wednesday that the United States apologize for its "past crimes" against the country and drastically change its policies towards Tehran.

    TEHRAN, January 28 (RIA Novosti) - The Iranian president demanded during a televised speech on Wednesday that the United States apologize for its "past crimes" against the country and drastically change its policies towards Tehran.

    "The new president of the U.S. [Barack Obama] said that he plans to change U.S. policy, but those changes need to have a cardinal and fundamental character," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a rally in the west of the country, "He must also apologize for the crimes that the Americans have committed against our country."

    Ahmadinejad also said that Tehran prefers to maintain a wait and see policy with regard to the new U.S. administration which has stated that it is ready to enter into direct dialogue with Iran to solve international and regional issues.

    "We are waiting patiently and listening closely to what [the Americans] are saying and we will follow their actions," he said. "And if drastic changes in U.S. policy really happen, then we will welcome them."

    Earlier, the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said that Washington would hold "direct diplomatic contacts" with Iran but added, "The dialogue and diplomacy must go hand in hand with a very firm message from the United States and the international community that Iran needs to meet its obligations as defined by the Security Council."

    And on Tuesday newly-appointed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at a news briefing that a "clear opportunity" existed for Iran "to demonstrate some willingness to engage more productively" and added "Whether or not that hand becomes less clenched is really up to them."

    The United States has accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons, a claim denied by Tehran, which maintains its nuclear program is exclusively for the civilian energy needs of the country.

    Diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran were cut in 1979 when supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, holding 52 employees captive for 444 days.

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