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An Opening To Dialogue With Iran


On the eve of the thirtieth anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran, President Barack Obama, at his first official press conference since taking office, again spoke of taking a new approach in dealing with Iran:

"My national security team is currently reviewing our existing Iran policy, looking at areas where we can have constructive dialogue, where we can directly engage with them. And 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; of diplomatic overtures that will allow us to move our policy in a new direction."

Mr. Obama also said that now is the time for Iran "to send some signals that it wants to act differently as well."

The next day, in an address marking the anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran is "ready to hold talks based on mutual respect and in a fair atmosphere."

But he blasted the policies of the previous U.S. administration and criticized Western nations for imposing sanctions and threatening military action. Declaring Iran "a real and genuine superpower," Mr. Ahmadinejad said that any change in policy by the U.S. "must be fundamental, not tactical."

In his news conference, President Barack Obama acknowledged he did not expect diplomatic progress with Iran to happen overnight. "There been a lot of mistrust built up over the years," said Mr. Obama.

He added that even as the U.S. engages in direct diplomacy, it is important to be very clear about the "deep concerns" the U.S. has about Iran:

"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."

President Obama said any conversations with Iran would have a "set of objectives ... but," he said, "I think there's the possibility, at least, of a relationship of mutual respect and progress."
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