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Iranians hope change in U.S. means change for them

By Aneesh Raman
CNN
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In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences covering news and analyze the stories behind the events.

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- In the Iranian capital, the results of the U.S. midterms and the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld are viewed as moments too good to ignore.

The country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking to huge crowds in a province outside the capital, recently said. "The winning [of Democrats in the U.S. elections] is not solely a domestic event of America. It means the failure of the pro-war and aggressive policies of the present president of America."

Other Iranians officials have taken a wait-and-see attitude and have suggested that if the United States shows a newfound policy towards Iran, Tehran could respond in kind.

The Iranian citizens, at least those we've spoke to so far, sense that that change might come. We got into Tehran over the weekend and decided to ride one of the city's many commuter buses to see if we could gauge what people were thinking.

It is never easy to get Iranians to open up on camera, especially for a Western crew. On board the commuters are segregated by gender. The women in the back -- separated from the men by a bar -- wouldn't speak to us on camera, but the men did.

The most interesting comment came from an engineer named Babek.

Speaking in English, he voiced a desire to see the United States and Iran figure out a way to forge a cooperative relationship.

"If they make any relationship, it means [the economy] in Iran is getting better and conditions for the people getting better," he said. "People want to see [a good] relationship between Iran and the United States."

And that really hits what the majority of Iranians seem to want. They want their economy, languishing with unemployment and inflation, to improve. It's why they voted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad into office, and it's what they are waiting to see happen.

Another man, named Hamdi, said he thought the change in the U.S. Congress meant a chance for the nuclear issue to be worked out.

"Yes, of course, the Democrat win in U.S. gives hope because the Republicans confrontational policy may be pushed aside," he said.

So far though there's been no change when it comes to the most divisive issue of nuclear politics.

Iran still says it will not suspend its nuclear program as a pre-condition for talks. And its chief nuclear negotiator over the weekend suggested for the first time that if sanctions were levied against Iran, it would review its relationship with the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Iranian leaders are never quick to talk of change, always deliberate in their words. They still speak out regularly and harshly against the United States and against the United Nations.

The nuclear issue remains a unifying one. Iranians feel it is their right to have nuclear energy and that they should be treated as a regional superpower.

There's a long, long way to go before that happens. But for the first time in my time in Iran, people on the streets are openly talking about it as a possibility.


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CNN correspondent Aneesh Raman boards a bus in Tehran to talk with Iranians about the relationship with the United States.

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