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In an interview on ABC TV, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she is looking forward to seeing the results of President Barack Obama's new strategy of pursuing direct engagement with Iran:
"We have a team of people who we have tasked to work on this. I think there's an enormous amount of potential for change, if the Iranians are willing [to pursue that.]"
Secretary of State Clinton said the U.S. and Iran need better information about each other – not just "a one-way street of information":
"The idea that we could have a diplomatic process with Iran means that, for the first time, we would actually be sitting at a table across from Iranians authorized by the Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei] to talk with us about a whole range of issues. That gives us information and insight that we don't have."
One area where information and insight are critical is Iran's nuclear program. The U.S. believes, as President Obama has said, that Iran has the right to access peaceful nuclear power, if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty. Secretary of State Clinton said if peaceful nuclear energy is what Iran wants, "There are ways of accommodating that that do not lead to nuclear weapons":
"But we have to test that, and we have to be willing to sit and listen and evaluate without giving up what we view as a primary objective of the engagement, which is to do everything we can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state."
If Iran is seeking security by pursuing nuclear weapons, it is important for its leaders understand that such a strategy will make Iran less safe by triggering a nuclear arms race in the region, said Secretary Clinton. "We want to avoid a Middle East arms race which leads to nuclear weapons being in the possession of other countries in the Middle East, and we want to make clear that there are consequences and costs."
For these reasons, said Secretary of State Clinton, "We are aggressively pursuing diplomacy, not as an end in itself, but as a means to try to resolve some of these outstanding and very difficult problems."