Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demanded on Wednesday that President Barack Obama apologize for past U.S. "crimes" against the Islamic republic, after the new U.S. leader extended a hand of diplomacy to Tehran.
The firebrand Iranian leader also called on Washington to withdraw its troops from across the world as a proof of Obama's promised policy of change.
"You were standing against the Iranian people in the past 60 years," Ahmadinejad said in an address in the western region of Khermenshah that was broadcast on state television.
"Those who speak of change must apologize to the Iranian people and try to repair their past bad acts and the crimes they committed against Iran," he said, suggesting it could be a condition for any talks between the arch-foes.
In an interview on Monday with Al-Arabiya television, Obama promised to lay down a framework for his policy toward Iran, whose leaders have long regarded the United States as the "Great Satan."
"As I said in my inauguration speech, if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us," Obama said. "It is very important for us to make sure that we are using all the tools of U.S. power, including diplomacy, in our relationship with Iran."
But Ahmadinejad on Wednesday launched a fresh tirade against the United States and said he expected "deep and fundamental" change from Obama.
"Meet people, talk to them with respect and put an end to the expansionist policies. If you talk about change, it must put an end to the U.S. military presence in the world, withdraw your troops and take them back inside your borders," Ahmadinejad said.
He said the advocates of change must "stop supporting the Zionists, outlaws and criminals" and also called on the United States to "stop interfering in other people's affairs."
"If someone wants to talk with us in the language that Bush used ... even if he uses new words, our response will be the same that we gave to Bush during the past years," he added.
Ahmadinejad will run for office again in Iran's presidential election on June 12.
Tension between the two nations, which severed diplomatic relations almost three decades ago, soared over Iran's contested nuclear drive, which many in the West fear is a cover for a secret atomic weapons program.
Bush -- who famously declared Iran part of an "axis of evil" -- refused to talk to Tehran until it stopped sensitive nuclear fuel work, but on Monday Obama extended a diplomatic hand.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that a U.S. envoy would join multilateral talks next week on Iran's nuclear program.
"With respect to Iran, there is a clear opportunity for the Iranians, as the president expressed in his interview, to demonstrate some willingness to engage meaningfully with the international community," Clinton told reporters.
Washington's U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, also pledged "direct" nuclear diplomacy with Tehran if it halts uranium enrichment, a process which makes fuel for nuclear plants but can be diverted to make the core of an atomic bomb.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany (known as P5-plus-1) have offered Tehran economic and energy incentives in exchange for halting uranium enrichment.
But Tehran is pressing on with the work, insisting that its nuclear program is peaceful and solely geared toward electricity generation.
The Security Council has already adopted four resolutions demanding an enrichment freeze, including three which imposed sanctions on Iran for its defiance.
Representatives of the P5-plus-1 are expected to meet again next week in Germany.
On Wednesday, Ahmadinejad said Tehran would "wait, see and listen to what they (the United States) say and then consider what they do. If there is a real change, we will welcome it."© Wire reports