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Obama On Iran And Diplomacy

In remarks to the press after meeting at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Barack Obama said the United States wants Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations:

"Iran is a country of extraordinary history and extraordinary potential. ... We want them to be a full-fledged member of the international community and be in a position to provide opportunities and prosperity for their people. But ... the way to achieve those goals is not through the pursuit of a nuclear weapon."

President Obama said it is important for the United States to take a diplomatic approach with Iran, because previous approaches that did not involve direct engagement have not worked:

"Hamas and Hezbollah have gotten stronger. Iran has been pursuing its nuclear capabilities undiminished ... And so what we're going to do is try something new, which is actually engaging and reaching out to the Iranians."

While he will not set an artificial deadline for Iran to respond positively to diplomatic overtures, President Obama said, "We're not going to create a situation in which talks become an excuse for inaction, while Iran proceeds with developing and deploying a nuclear weapon":

"My expectation would be that if we can begin discussions soon, shortly after the Iranian elections [in June] we should have a fairly good sense by the end of the year as to whether they are moving in the right direction and whether the parties involved are making progress and that there's a good faith effort to resolve differences."

"I firmly believe it is in Iran’s interest not to develop nuclear weapons, because it would trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and be profoundly destabilizing in all sorts of ways," said President Obama. "Iran can achieve its interests of security and international respect and prosperity for its people through other means, and I am prepared to make what I believe will be a persuasive argument, that there should be a different course taken."