Iran welcomes Obama's envoy decision

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The Independent Online

President Barack Obama's decision to send an envoy to the Middle East to sound out countries in the region is a "positive signal", according to a senior Iranian politician.

"The US President has announced he will send someone to the Middle East to listen to people and not to dictate," Ari Larijani, the speaker of Iran's parliament, told the annual Munich Security Conference. "This approach is a positive signal," he added. Mr Obama has named the former US senator George Mitchell as his envoy to the Middle East. Richard Holbrooke has been named special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The new administration promises a strong push to secure peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as a new approach in dealing with Iran and its nuclear programme. Mr Obama's predecessor George Bush opposed direct talks with Tehran to resolve the nuclear stand-off but Washington is now reviewing its Iran policy.

Mr Larijani said the new White House could rebuild some of the bridges that had been destroyed by the Bush administration but this required a "pragmatic strategy based on fair play". "The old carrot and stick cliché must be discarded," he added.

He also questioned whether a change of tone from Mr Obama really meant the US was prepared to work towards a diplomatic solution with Iran. The UN Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment. Western powers suspect the work is aimed at building an atomic bomb. Tehran says it is for peaceful power generation only. REUTERS

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