The jailing of an Iranian-American journalist is threatening to set back relations between the two countries just as they had begun to show signs of improving under new diplomacy by the Obama administration.
Roxana Saberi was sentenced to eight years by an Iranian court on charges of spying for the US. Washington described the accusation as “basesless and without foundation”. Her lawyer says he will appeal the verdict. It comes as Iran appears to be softening its stance on the US. An address by President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad on Iran’s “army day” was marked by its lack of fierce anti-Western rhetoric. In the past the national celebration of the country’s military has been used by Ahmedinijad to verbally attack America and Israel. But this year’s address was strikingly moderate. On Wednesday the Iranain leader said he would welcome talks with the US on Iran’s controversial nuclear programme. Washington has launched a new diplomatic initiative to resolve the issue.