TEHRAN, Iran — Iran criticized President-elect Barack Obama for the first time Saturday, saying the world needs more than cosmetic changes in American foreign policy.
The criticism from Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani followed Obama's comment Friday that it is "unacceptable" for Iran to develop nuclear weapons and there should be a concerted international effort to prevent it.
"Obama can understand that strategic changes in (American) policy are required, not just cosmetic changes," Larijani told state television.
"This is a step in the wrong direction," he added. "If Americans want to change their situation in the region, they need to send good signals."
Iran has denied allegations that its nuclear program is aimed at producing weapons.
Iranians initially welcomed Obama's victory as a triumph over the unpopular policies of President Bush.
Hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congratulated Obama on his win — the first time an Iranian leader has offered such wishes to a U.S. president-elect since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Ahmadinejad's message said "nations of the world" expect changes from Obama — mostly that he will change U.S. foreign policy. He claimed U.S. policy was "based on warmongering, occupation, bullying, deception and humiliation, as well as discrimination and unfair relations" and has led to "hatred of all nations and majority of governments toward the U.S. leaders."
During the campaign, Obama said he was willing to talk directly to Iran about its nuclear program, something the Bush administration has refused to do. He was harshly criticized for that by his rival, U.S. Senator John McCain, and others.
Asked about Iran at his first news conference since his election on Tuesday, Obama reiterated earlier statements saying he will move deliberately on how to respond to Iran and would not do it in a knee-jerk fashion.
"Iran's development of a nuclear weapon, I believe, is unacceptable. And we have to mount an international effort to prevent that from happening," Obama told reporters.
Iranian state radio said Obama's position was a replay of Bush's hard-line stance toward Tehran. It said this will dampen Iranian expectations for changes in U.S. foreign policy with the new administration.
The radio warned Obama "will betray the vote of the American people if he fails to bring back rationalism to the White House."
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