Iran seeks to improve relations with U.S. – envoy

MOSCOW, February 6 (RIA Novosti) – Iran is interested in cooperation with the U.S. and hopes for better ties with the country it has often referred to as the “Great Satan,” the Islamic republic’s ambassador to Russia said on Friday.

“We’re interested in building cooperation with the United States and hope that this will help clear up previous misunderstandings between our two countries,” Mahmoud Reza Sajadi told a news conference hosted by RIA Novosti.

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He said Iran hoped that Barack Obama’s administration would be different from the George W. Bush administration, which he described as “aggressive.” Bush repeatedly refused to rule out an attack on Iran over its nuclear ambitions. Iran has insisted its nuclear program is of an entirely peaceful nature.

“In relations [with the new administration] we’re counting on an evenhanded approach and hope that the administration will not look down on us,” the envoy said.

The U.S. and Iran have had no direct diplomatic relations since April 1980. Ties were cut some five months after radical Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

The term “Great Satan” was first used to describe the U.S. by Iranian leader Ruhollah Khomeini in a 1979 speech.

Obama said in late January that the U.S. would seek to reach out to the Muslim world. On Iran, he called both the Iranian people and Persian civilization “great.”

However, he also said that, “Iran has acted in ways that’s not conducive to peace and prosperity in the region: their threats against Israel; their pursuit of a nuclear weapon which could potentially set off an arms race in the region that would make everybody less safe; their support of terrorist organizations in the past — none of these things have been helpful.”