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Iran Tells U.S. To Change, Backs Oil Embargo Over Gaza

"If there is truly fundamental change, we welcome it,"President Mahmud Ahmadinejad told journalists in Tehran.
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran's president has said U.S. President-elect Barack Obama must take a different approach in a row over the Islamic state's nuclear program.

President Mahmud Ahmadinejad also told a news conference that imposing an oil embargo by Arab countries on Israel's supporters over its assault on Gaza was a "good proposal" but not on the agenda yet.

Asked about U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who has said he sees Iran as a "genuine threat" but favors dialogue with its leaders, Ahmadinejad said: "It doesn't make a difference to us who comes to power. What is important is what behavior he would follow...If there is truly fundamental change, we welcome it."

The United States accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons and President George W. Bush has spearheaded a drive to isolate Tehran internationally. Tehran denies the charge.

Obama has said he is prepared to offer economic incentives to stop Iran's nuclear work but that tougher sanctions could be imposed if it refused.

Ahmadinejad dismissed such carrot-and-stick policies.

"I believe that the literature about sticks and carrots is obsolete literature. The world has changed," he said.

Washington and Tehran have not had diplomatic ties since shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted the U.S.-backed shah.

Ahmadinejad, who often rails against the West, called on the United States to stop interfering in other countries.

Ahmadinejad said one change Washington could make would be to stop supporting Israel, which Iran condemns for launching attacks on Gaza. More than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed in the assault, which the president has called "genocide."

An Iranian military commander this month called on Islamic countries to cut oil exports to Israel's backers, an idea which Ahmadinejad endorsed while saying it was not on the agenda yet.

"I think it is a good proposal if Arab countries cooperate. It can't be that nations give oil and it is turned into a bullet, a missile, or a bomb on the heads of the people of Gaza. This is not a fair equation," Ahmadinejad said.

Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), last week said Middle East producers would ignore the Iranian commander's call.

After the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, an Arab oil embargo caused panic buying that sent crude prices soaring.