TEHRAN 22 Sept. (IPS) Iranians in great majority rejected Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i’s policy of hostility with the United states, with more than 75 per cent of Tehran’s 12 million population supporting normalisation with Washington.

According to a poll conducted recently by the official "National Institute of Researches", concerning the thorny and emotional question of relations with the United States, 74 per cent supported dialogue with Washington, with 65 per cent of them called for establishing full diplomatic ties.

America cut all relations with the newly installed Islamic Republic and imposed economic embargo after revolutionary students stormed the US embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and took 55 diplomat and staff as hostage for 444 days.

The lamed leader of the Islamic Republic was also contradicted when, answering to a question, only 24 per cent of the questioned said they consider Washington’s policy on Iran as "wrong", against more than 60 per cent considering Iran’s hostile attitude towards the United states as "counterproductive".

Though the poll was restricted to the greater Tehran region, but analysts said the outcome translates "a national trend if conducted nation-wide".

The not surprising result of the poll confirms the huge gap between a great majority of Iranians with the staunch anti-American policy drummed up by Mr. Khameneh'i and the conservative ayatollahs who, not only insists that Iranians are opposed to relations with America, but have even forbidden the media to publish anything in favour of dialogue with Washington.

Iranian analysts said it was on an "awareness" of the Iranian public sentiment in favour of normalisation with the United States that President George W. Bush, in his last statement, dumped the Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, whom he described as "powerless and incapable" of implementing his promised reforms and said he would establish "direct contact" with the Iranian people and the "neo-reformers", known in Iran as the "third current", who calls for radical changes in the present Constitution based on the concept of Velayat Faqih, or the absolute rule of a clerical leader.

In his State of the Union address last January, President Bush had placed the Islamic Republic in the basket of "evil nations", alongside Iraq and North Korea.

"This must be very alarming for Ayatollah Khameneh'i and his surrogates that oppose normalising with Washington", said Mr. Sadeq Saba, a senior expert on Iranian affairs, analysing the poll for the BBC’s Persian service.

Meanwhile, a former Iranian envoy at the United Nations suggested Sunday that Iran "should welcome" if the United States "seeks unconditional talks with Iran".

"This is because we have to finally set aside our differences", Mr. Sa’id Raja’i Khorrasani told the official news agency IRNA, adding that the issue of talks with the US must not be marred by "internal and factional disputes" and there must be a "national stance" on that.

"Now that detente is being followed as a principle in Iran's diplomacy, we should also act wisely on the issue of ties with America" he said, suggesting however that Iran must not sit at the negotiation table with the US "because of the fear it may have from a possible American attack".

"Doubtless, countries can settle their differences better and wisely through dialogue...but, we should not negotiate with America out of an attack fear from the weak position", IRNA quoted him as having said.

At the same time, he warned the US against spreading war fronts inside Iran, saying, "Americans know that they will face an all-out defense (from Iranians) and will pay a heavy cost" if they attack the Islamic Republic.

Iran has dismissed speculations that it could be next in line for US attack on Baghdad.

"We currently do not see any special threat from any foreign power," government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh told Iranian and foreign media persons earlier this month. ENDS TIES WITH US 22902