Obama condemned for acting like Bush

Relations between the US and Iran over the protests deteriorated sharply yesterday when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Barack Obama of behaving like his predecessor, George W Bush, and declared there was no point in talking to Washington unless the US President apologised.

The American response to the crackdown on the protests had been initially low-key and Britain, rather than the "Great Satan", had been the focus of anger for Iran's rulers.

But Mr Obama has hardened his position saying he was "appalled and outraged" by the suppression of dissent. He also dismissed Tehran's claims that outsiders orchestrated the disturbances. The State Department has withdrawn invitations to Iranian diplomats to the Independence Day celebrations on 4 July.

President Ahmadinejad said yesterday that "Mr Obama made a mistake to say those things... our question is why he fell into this trap and said things that previously Bush used to say."

"Do you want to speak with this tone? If that is your stance then what is left to talk about?... I hope you avoid interfering in Iran's affairs and express your regret in a way that the Iranian nation is informed of it."

According to diplomatic sources, the Iranian regime had been "pleasantly surprised" by the lack of stronger criticism from Washington at the start of the crisis and appears to have been surprised by the change of tone from Washington.

A British official said "They [the Iranians] had spared the US from the usual vitriol until now. What we are seeing is normal service resuming."

Mohammad Marandi, head of North American Studies at Tehran University, said mistrust of the United States and Britain was rife.

"In the short term, relations will definitely get worse, but in the long term the US really has to re-think its policy and to recognise that regime change is not possible in Iran," he said.

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