Historic phone call between US and Iran
In the highest level contact between the two countries since 1979, Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speak by phone Friday.PT1M32S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2ulvc 620 349 September 29, 2013
Ending three decades of official estrangement, US President Barack Obama has spoken by telephone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, saying he was hopeful the two countries could reach a deal to resolve the long diplomatic stand-off on Iran's disputed nuclear program.
''While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward, and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution,'' Mr Obama said in televised remarks at the White House after the call on Friday afternoon Washington time.
It was the first direct communication between American and Iranian presidents since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, when the US-backed shah was overthrown and diplomatic relations were severed.
Dialogue: Barack Obama talks to Hassan Rouhani. Photo: AFP
Mr Obama and Dr Rouhani traded letters earlier this month but did not meet this week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The call followed a 30-minute, one-on-one meeting on Thursday between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to discuss the nuclear issue, and conciliatory remarks by Dr Rouhani at the UN and with American audiences, including comments that repudiated his predecessor's denial of the Holocaust.
Mr Obama said he was mindful of ''the deep mistrust between our countries'', but that the phone call with Dr Rouhani, who was elected in June, ''indicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history. I do believe that there is a basis for a resolution.''
Mr Obama cited a religious decree issued by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, against the development of nuclear weapons and Dr Rouhani's assertion that Iran will never develop such weapons.
''I've made clear that we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy in the context of Iran meeting its obligations,'' Mr Obama said. ''So the test will be meaningful, transparent and verifiable actions, which can also bring relief from the comprehensive international sanctions that are currently in place.''
Resolving the Iranian nuclear issue could bring greater stability in the Middle East, Mr Obama said.
''A path to a meaningful agreement will be difficult,'' he said. ''And at this point, both sides have significant concerns that will have to be overcome.
''But I believe we've got a responsibility to pursue diplomacy and that we have a unique opportunity to make progress with the new leadership in Tehran.''
The Iranian mission at the UN said the two presidents had talked as Dr Rouhani was in a car in New York heading to the airport.
MCT, New York Times