Ayatollah Mocks U.S. Pre-Election Overture

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, delivers his sermon in front of a picture of the late spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini, during the Friday prayers, at the Tehran University campus, in Tehran, Iran, June 19, 2009. (AP Photo/Hayat News Agency, Meisam Hosseini) AP Photo

Shortly after Barack Obama took office it was reported that his administration was drafting a letter to be sent to the government of Iran, with which the United States has not had diplomatic ties since the 1979 Revolution.

, the State Department had begun drafting a letter to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, aimed at paving the way for face-to-face talks.

In March, on the occasion of the Persian New Year, Mr. Obama released a video message in which he reached out to Iran - a gesture towards which Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei turned up his nose.

"As long as the U.S. government continues the same policies and directions of the previous 30 years, we will be the same nation of the past 30 years," Khamenei said. "The Iranian nation can't be deceived or threatened."

Now the Washington Times is reporting that a letter from the Obama administration was forwarded to the Ayatollah some time between May 4 and May 10 calling for an improvement in relations between the two countries. A source told the Times the letter touched on greater cooperation in regional and bilateral issues, and Iran's disputed nuclear program.

The letter was passed through the U.S. Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy in Tehran and forwarded to the office of the Ayatollah.

The Supreme Leader ridiculed the overture in a sermon on Friday. According to a Press TV transcript, the Ayatollah commented on remarks by Western leaders on the post-election unrest. "The U.S. President said that we were waiting for the day when people would take to the streets. At the same time they write letters saying that they want to have ties and that they respect the Islamic Republic. Which are we to believe?"

Iranian officials have cast blame upon Western leaders and media for fomenting the unrest.

At Tuesday's press conference, President Obama made critical comments regarding the election protests and the response by the Iranian authorities. His remarks were remarkable if only for their lack of controversy, in the hopes of avoiding being tagged an instigator by Tehran: "The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.

"The fact that they are now in the midst of an extraordinary debate taking place in Iran, you know, may end up coloring how they respond to the international community as a whole. We are going to monitor and see how this plays itself out before we make any judgments about how we proceed."

Meanwhile, Iranian media is reporting that authorities have uncovered numerous "terrorist plots" linked to regimes outside the country, as well as a headquarters for the opposition linked to "foreign elements." Arrests have been made.


By CBSNews.com producer David Morgan
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