Obama sees chance for ‘mutual respect’ in ties with Iran

February 10th, 2009 - 1:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Feb 10 (DPA) US President Barack Obama has said that in the coming months he will be looking for ways to open direct talks with Iran geared towards developing a “relationship of mutual respect”.

Obama cautioned that Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weaponry, support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas and “bellicose” language toward Israel play a negative role in the Middle East.

“Its actions over many years now have been unhelpful when it comes to promoting peace and prosperity both in the region and around the world,” he said Monday.

During his presidential campaign, Obama said he was open to direct dialogue with Iran, a move that would largely break from 30 years of a US policy of sanctions and isolation.

Obama, who took office three weeks ago, said his administration was reviewing US policy on Iran and exploring ways for the two countries to begin talks on a variety of issues confronting both countries.

“My expectation is, in the coming months, we will be looking for openings that can be created where we can start sitting across the table - face-to-face, diplomatic overtures - that will allow us to move our policy in a new direction,” he said.

The US and its European allies Britain, France and Germany suspect that Iran is seeking a capability of developing nuclear weapons.

Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush refused to join EU-led talks with Iran unless Tehran complied with UN Security Council demands to suspend uranium enrichment - a condition Iran has rejected while maintaining that its nuclear work is for peaceful purposes.

Obama did not say if he would adhere to Bush’s condition for US officials to sit down with Iran, but urged Tehran to change its behaviour and play a responsible role in the world.

“It’s time for Iran to send some signals that it wants to act differently, as well, and recognise that, even as it has some rights as a member of the international community, with those rights come responsibilities,” Obama said.

On rare cases, the Bush administration backed Iraqi-hosted talks between the US and Iranian ambassadors in Baghdad over US concerns that the Iranian government was supporting the insurgency in Iraq.

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