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Ahmadinejad congratulates Obama

November 7, 2008
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TEHRAN - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday congratulated Barack Obama on his election win - the first time an Iranian leader has offered such wishes to a US president-elect since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

An analyst said Ahmadinejad's message was a gesture from the hard-line president that he is open to some sort of reconciliation with the United States.

Obama has said he is willing to hold direct diplomacy with Iranian leaders as a way to break the impasse between the two countries or give the United States more credibility to press for tougher sanctions if talks fail. His policy marks a departure from the Bush administration, which has refused high-level engagements with Iran.

Ahmadinejad congratulated the Democrat on "attracting the majority of voters in the election," according to excerpts carried by the official IRNA news agency.

The Iranian leader also said he hopes Obama will "use the opportunity to serve the (American) people and leave a good name for history" during his term in office.

Iran and the United States have had no formal diplomatic relations since 1979 and the hostage drama when militant Iranian students held 52 Americans captive 444 days.

Current US-Iranian relations remain tense, with Washington accusing Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons and of providing support for Shi'ite militants who are killing US soldiers in Iraq - charges Iran denies.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a contender for prime minister in her country's elections, warned against any dialogue with Iran - a first sign of Israeli disagreement with the incoming U.S. administration.

"Dialogue at this time is liable to broadcast weakness," cautioned Livni, who is head of the governing Kadima Party. "I think early dialogue at a time when it appears to Iran that the world has given up on sanctions could be problematic."

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