In one of his first interviews since taking office, President Barack Obama told the Al Arabiya satellite television network that his administration is determined to immediately engage issues that are important to the Muslim world.
"The U.S. has a stake in the well being of the Muslim world," said Mr. Obama, "and the language we use has to be a language of respect ... We are going to follow through on many of my commitments to do a more effective job of reaching out, listening, as well as speaking to the Muslim world."
President Obama noted in his interview that he grew up in Indonesia and during his travels throughout the Muslim world, he had come to understand that regardless of faith, people have certain common hopes and common dreams. "My job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives," said Mr. Obama.
On Iran, President Obama said it is important for the U.S. "to be willing to talk to Iran, to express very clearly where our differences are, but where there are potential avenues for progress." He said the U.S. needs to use "all the tools of U.S. power, including diplomacy, in our relationship with Iran."
Mr. Obama called the Iranian people, "a great people," and the Persian civilization "a great civilization." But, he said, the Iranian government "has acted in ways that [are] not conducive to peace and prosperity in the region: their threats against Israel; their pursuit of nuclear weapons which could potentially set off an arms race in the region that would make everybody less safe; their support of terrorist organizations in the past – none of these things have been helpful."
President Obama said that over the next several months his administration will be laying out its "general framework and approach" to Iran. "And as I said during my inauguration speech," said Mr. Obama, "if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us."