Obama sends ‘let’s talk’ message

By Nathan Guttman, March 26, 2009
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President Obama: appeal to Iran

President Obama: appeal to Iran

True to his campaign promise to reach out diplomatically to Iran, US president Barack Obama issued a public appeal to the Iranian leadership on the occasion of the Iranian holiday of Nowruz.

President Obama’s overture to Tehran marks the beginning of the US effort to engage with Iran, a strategy viewed with skepticism by Israel. The President’s public call for rapprochement comes days after senior administration officials were urged by Israel’s chief of staff not to shelve the military option against Iran.

In his video greeting, Mr Obama called on Iran to change its ways, promising in return America’s friendship. “My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community,” President Obama said, adding that there is no place for threats in this process. “We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.”

Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded: “If you change your attitude, we will change our attitude.” Khamenei, however, did not dismiss any possibility of dialogue and said his country would be watching the actions of the new administration.

In yet another sign of warming to Iran, the US agreed to invite Iranian representatives to high-level discussions on the future of its neighbour, Afghanistan.

These moves come as the Obama administration concludes its policy review toward the Islamic republic and embarks on direct and indirect negotiations aimed at swaying Tehran away from its nuclear programme.

Special adviser Dennis Ross, the veteran peace negotiator will coordinate policy towards Iran in the State Department. Mr Ross supports a “bigger sticks and bigger carrots” policy towards Iran.

Last updated: 11:48am, March 26 2009