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Obama Says U.S. Talks with Iran Must Be Built on Mutual Respect

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr., Staff Writer,

U.S. policy on Iran is being reviewed

Washington - Future relations between the United States and Iran will depend significantly on the willingness of Iranian officials to set aside years of mistrust for cooperation, President Obama says.

"Iran is a country that has extraordinary people, extraordinary history and traditions, but ... its actions over many years now have been unhelpful when it comes to promoting peace and prosperity both in the region and around the world," Obama said February 9 in a nationally televised press conference in the East Room at the White House.

"My expectation is in the coming months we will be looking for openings that can be created where we can start sitting across the table, face to face, [with] diplomatic overtures that will allow us to move our policy in a new direction."

The president's national security staff is reviewing existing U.S. policies toward Iran with the goal of looking at areas where there can be constructive talks and direct engagement with Iranian officials.

"There's been a lot of mistrust built up over the years, so it's not going to happen overnight," Obama said. "It's important that even as we engage in this direct diplomacy, we are very clear about certain deep concerns that we have as a country, that Iran understands that we find the funding of terrorist organizations unacceptable, that we're clear about the fact that a nuclear Iran could set off a nuclear arms race in the region that would be profoundly destabilizing."

A set of objectives will determine the nature of the talks, Obama said, and there is a possibility of a relationship built on mutual respect and progress.

Iranian newspaper headline says: "Obama Victory with Promise of Change"

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in separate remarks at the State Department on February 10 that there is an opportunity for Iranian officials to show a willingness to "unclench their fist and to begin a serious and responsible discussion about a range of matters."

She said, though, that Iran should not obtain nuclear weapons.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at a rally in Tehran that "the Iranian nation is ready to hold talks, but talks in a fair atmosphere with mutual respect," in response to recent comments by Obama and Vice President Biden, according to a Reuters news agency report.

Biden said at the recent Munich Conference on Security Policy that the United States will engage with the world, it will consult, and it will listen. (See "Biden Lays Out U.S. Foreign Policy Goals, Approaches.")

"Our administration is reviewing our policy toward Iran, but this much is clear: We will be willing to talk. We'll be willing to talk to Iran and to offer a very clear choice: Continue down the current course and there will be continued pressure and isolation; abandon the illicit nuclear program and your support for terrorism, and there will be meaningful incentives."

What actions should President Obama take to improve relations with Iran? Comment on's blog.

About U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) engages international audiences on issues of foreign policy, society and values to help create an environment receptive to U.S. national interests.

... Payvand News - 02/11/09 ... --

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