DUBAI (Reuters) - Tehran authorities have taken down some anti-American posters, amid signs Iran is seeking better relations with the United States as the two sides prepare to hold talks over its nuclear program.
A Tehran municipal official said some anti-American billboards had been put up illegally and had been taken down, state news agency IRNA said on Saturday.
"In an arbitrary move, without the knowledge or confirmation of the municipality, one of the cultural institutes installed advertising billboards," said spokesman Hadi Ayyazi.
Ayyazi did not say which posters had been taken down. According to IRNA, new anti-American posters were put up in busy Tehran thoroughfares since last week, ahead of the November 4 anniversary of the 1979 seizure of hostages in the U.S. Embassy.
One depicted an Iranian negotiator sitting at a table with a U.S. official who is wearing a suit jacket but also army trousers and boots, with a caption that read: "American Honesty".
Iran has repeatedly alleged that the real U.S. goal is to attack Iran rather than find a diplomatic solution in nuclear negotiations.
Ehsan Mohammad-Hassani, head of the Owj Cultural Organisation which produces anti-American material, said on Sunday his group had put up the posters with the permission of the municipality, the Fars news agency said.
He said they had nothing to do with the policies of new President Hassan Rouhani, and had been designed before he took office in August. Hardliners are skeptical of Rouhani's efforts to engage with the West.
"The 'American Honesty' designs do not indicate an opposition to the negotiations of Iranian statesmen with America," Mohammad-Hassani was quoted as saying.
Lurid anti-American graffiti and posters have adorned Tehran and other major Iranian cities for decades. The site of the former U.S. embassy in Tehran depicts the Statue of Liberty with a skull for a face.
The removal of some posters sparked protest from some hard-liners, including the conservative Kayhan newspaper, which criticized the decision in a Sunday editorial.
"Obviously, the posters only warned of America's dishonesty," the editorial said.
"Therefore, their removal is unjustifiable for the people whose blood has been shed and who have suffered the bitter taste of America's hostility for more than 30 years."
(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Jon Hemming and Andrew Roche)