TEHRAN — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday congratulated U.S. president-elect Barack Obama on his success — rare praise between two countries which are arch-foes, IRNA news agency reported.
"I congratulate you on being able to attract the majority of votes of the participants of the election," Ahmadinejad said in a message to Obama carried by the official agency.
"You know the opportunities bestowed upon people by God are short-lived," he said.
"I hope you make the most of the chance of service and leave a good name by preferring people's real interests and justice to the insatiable demands of a selfish and indecent minority."
"The great Iranian nation welcomes real, basic and fair changes in behaviour and policies, especially in this region," Ahmadinejad said, referring to the Middle East.
"You are generally expected to make a fast and clear response to the demands for basic... change in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, which all people in the world and Americans want on top of your agenda," he told Obama.
The Iranian president said Obama is expected to replace US "militaristic policies, occupation... and the imposition of unfair and discriminatory relations with an attitude based on justice, respect for nations' rights and non-interference."
"The U.S. government's interference should be limited to that country's geographical boundaries," IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
Iran and the United States have had no diplomatic relations for nearly three decades since Islamist students took American diplomats hostage for 444 days following the 1979 Islamic revolution which toppled the U.S.-backed shah.
Hostility has since deepened, with the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini branding the United States the "Great Satan." President George W. Bush has denounced Iran as part of an "axis of evil."
The escalation of Tehran's nuclear standoff with the West against a backdrop of defiant and inflammatory rhetoric from Ahmadinejad has even raised the spectre of an American military strike against Iran.
The Americans accuse Iran of meddling in Iraq and sponsoring "terrorism" by backing militant groups such as the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah, while Ahmadinejad has triggered international outrage for calling for Israel to be wiped off the map.
After three decades of outright hostility, many Iranians believe Obama's election may help to improve relations.
The two sides have held a series of meetings on the security situation in Iraq and in July, the U.S. administration for the first time sent a senior diplomat to attend talks between Iran and six major powers on the nuclear row.
The Islamic republic has also expressed a willingness for the United States to open an interests section in Tehran.
The question now is how the new man in the Oval Office will handle the clerical regime in Iran, a key political and economic player in the Middle East.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all key policy issues, has not yet commented on the result of the U.S. election.
Last week the all-powerful leader said hatred of Washington was deep-seated, and he praised the Islamist students who took over the U.S. embassy in 1979.
"Besides, they (the United States) have not apologised yet and rather keep on with their arrogant attitude," Khamenei said.
Copyright 2008 AFP