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Iran Criticizes Obama's Nuclear Comments

Iranian spokesman Hassan Qashqavi

Iranian spokesman Hassan Qashqavi

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran's Foreign Ministry has dismissed comments by U.S. President-elect Barack Obama about Tehran's disputed nuclear ambitions and said it did not expect any major change in the policies of its old foe.

Obama called on November 7 for an international effort to stop Iran developing a nuclear bomb, saying it was "unacceptable."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi repeated Tehran's official position that nuclear weapons had no place in the Islamic Republic's defense doctrine.

"We need a change in the erroneous impressions of the United States," he told a news conference, broadcast and translated by Iran's English-language Press TV station. "It is very clear that Iran does not...possess nuclear weapons."

Iran says its nuclear plans are to make electricity so it can export more oil and gas. But its refusal to halt sensitive work has drawn three sets of UN sanctions and U.S. measures.

Washington severed diplomatic ties with Iran shortly after its 1979 Islamic Revolution and is spearheading the drive to isolate Tehran over its nuclear activities.

Iranian officials have said Obama's victory showed Americans wanted a fundamental change from the policies of President George W. Bush, who branded Iran part of an "axis of evil."

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad last week congratulated Obama, who has said he would harden sanctions on Iran but has also held out the possibility of direct talks.

"Can the gentleman [Obama] bring about change or not? Let us wait and see," Qashqavi said.

Asked whether he believed Obama would hold talks with the present Iranian government or whether he preferred to wait for Iran's 2009 presidential election, Qashqavi replied: "We shouldn't expect fundamental, revolutionary changes in American policy.... This is equally true when it comes to the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Qashqavi said Iran was studying a letter from European Union foreign-policy chief Javier Solana on the nuclear issue. Solana represents the six powers -- the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France, and Germany -- in talks with Iran.

Iranian media reported on November 10 that a proposal put forward by the six powers in June, under which they would hold off from further sanctions if Iran froze enrichment expansion, was raised in talks between Iranian MPs and officials in Brussels.