US President open to diplomacy with Iran
US President Barack Obama on Monday said his administration would be willing to engage in diplomacy with Iran on its controversial nuclear programme, in a reiteration of statements that drew fire during his election campaign, reported dpa.
In his first sit-down interview as president, Obama told al-Arabiya television that he felt it was important for the United States to be willing to talk with Iran and said his administration would lay out a framework for how to do so.
"As I said during my inauguration speech, if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us," he said.
Similar statements made during his campaign to secure the Democratic Party's nomination and the general election were dubbed naive by opponents, including Republican John McCain and now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Earlier Monday, his ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said Washington would consider direct diplomacy with Tehran.
She said she will work closely with the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council - Russia, China, France and Britain - and Germany to engage constructively with the Tehran government to end its nuclear programme suspected of manufacturing nuclear weapons.
"We look forward to engage in vigorous diplomacy, which includes direct diplomacy, with Iran," she said.
"We will look to maintain pressure on ending Iran's nuclear programme," she said. "Dialogue and diplomacy will go hand in hand with a firm message that Iran needs to meet its obligations defined by UN Security Council resolutions and its refusal to do so will only cause pressure to increase."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Rice was expressing a long-standing Obama position, but that there were "no specific initiatives" to be announced toward Iran.
The former Bush administration had considered last year a direct link with Iran with the opening of a US office in Tehran in order to improve relations between the two countries. US diplomatic ties with Iran were severed after the Islamic revolution in Iran and the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran in the early 1980s.