TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's top leader Thursday welcomed comments by President Barack Obama advocating diplomacy and not war as a solution to Tehran's nuclear ambitions, a rare positive signal in long-standing hostile transactions between Tehran and Washington.
The report on Iran's state television quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as praising a recent statement by the U.S. president saying he saw a "window of opportunity" to use diplomacy to resolve the nuclear dispute.
Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters in Iran, told a group of clerics: "This expression is a good word. This is a wise remark indicating taking distance from illusion."
It is one of the rare cases in which Iran's top leader praised an American leader.
Washington and Tehran have had no diplomatic relations since the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by Iranian students who took American diplomats hostage.
Both the U.S. and Israel fear Iran's nuclear program is aimed at building a nuclear weapon, while Iran says its nuclear activities are geared toward peaceful purposes such as power generation. But the U.S. and Israel have differed over how to deal with the nuclear problem.
Israel has said military action should be considered to stop the Iranians. President Barack Obama told visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week that diplomacy must be given more time.
On Tuesday, the American president said diplomacy can still resolve the nuclear crisis and accused his Republican critics of "beating the drums of war."
Obama added that the Iranians need to show how serious they are about resolving the crisis. He said there are steps the Iranians can take "that are verifiable" and will allow the country to be "in compliance with international norms and mandates."
But Khamenei had criticism for Obama as well. The Iranian leader said the economic sanctions pushed by the U.S. and other nations as a way to get Iran to alter its nuclear program would fail.
He said the U.S. president has continued a policy of wanting the Iranian nation to "...bow through imposing sanctions."
Khamenei said resorting to the sanctions was a sign of misunderstanding and an unrealistic approach by the U.S. toward the Iranian nation.
The Iranian leader warned that the misunderstanding will damage American leaders: "It will lead their calculations to failure."