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First Top-Level U.S.- Iran Talk Since 1979

World  (tags: americans, Iran, relations )

- 1700 days ago -
Obama's Statement on Iran: President Obama said he spoke with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran by phone, the first direct contact between leaders of Iran and the United States since 1979.

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Kit B (276)
Friday September 27, 2013, 5:33 pm
Photo Credit:

Video of Press Conference at VISIT SITE ->

WASHINGTON — President Obama spoke by telephone with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran on Friday afternoon, the first direct conversation between leaders of the two estranged countries since the rupture of the Tehran hostage crisis more than three decades ago.

Mr. Obama called the discussion an important breakthrough after a generation of deep mistrust and suggested that it could serve as the starting point to an eventual deal on Iran’s nuclear program and a broader renewal of relations between two countries that once were close allies.

“The test will be meaningful, transparent and verifiable actions, which can also bring relief from the comprehensive international sanctions that are currently in place,” Mr. Obama told reporters. “Resolving this issue, obviously, could also serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”

Mr. Obama added: “A path to a meaningful agreement will be difficult. 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 conversation took place just days after Mr. Rouhani declined to attend a lunch at the United Nations where American officials hoped the two presidents might shake hands. Mr. Rouhani suggested later that a meeting was premature and might actually jeopardize hopes of diplomatic progress.

But the telephone call on Friday reinforced optimism at the White House that Mr. Rouhani’s election in June may presage a new thinking in Tehran under the weight of crushing economic sanctions imposed in recent years. Secretary of State John Kerry engaged in direct talks on Thursday with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and Mr. Obama said the two would pursue additional discussions in cooperation with allies.

The Iranian mission at the United Nations said the two presidents talked as Mr. Rouhani was in a car in New York heading to the airport.

“The Iranian and U.S. presidents underlined the need for a political will for expediting resolution of the West’s standoff with Iran over the latter’s nuclear program,” the mission said. The two presidents “stressed the necessity for mutual cooperation on different regional issues.”

Recognizing the sensitivities of the conversation, Mr. Obama made a point of trying to reassure Israel that he would not sell out an ally’s security. “Throughout this process, we’ll stay in close touch with our friends and allies in the region, including Israel,” he told reporters after the phone call.

He added, “I do believe that there is a basis for resolution,” citing Mr. Rouhani’s comment that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons and reiterating his own “respect” for “the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy.”

The call came after Mr. Rouhani said in New York that his government would present a plan in three weeks on how to resolve the nuclear standoff. “I expect this trip will be the first step and the beginning of constructive relations with countries of the world,” he told a news conference.

He went on to say that he hoped the visit would also improve relations “between two great nations, Iran and the United States,” adding that the trip had exceeded his expectations.

Mr. Rouhani and his aides have been on an extraordinarily energetic campaign to prove that they are moderate and reasonable partners and to draw a stark contrast with his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But Mr. Rouhani has yet to propose anything concrete to suggest how different the Iranians really are in their approach. The first glimpse of that is due to come on Oct. 15 and 16, when Iran plans to present its own road map.

Mr. Rouhani’s pronouncements this week painted a mixed picture. He has made clear that Iran plans to continue to enrich uranium for a civilian nuclear program and on several occasions said no country should have a nuclear arsenal, singling out Israel. But before the phone call, he attributed his failure to meet with Mr. Obama to a desire “to have a successful and effective meeting.”

He repeatedly emphasized that his government had both the authority and the will to reach a nuclear settlement within what he called “a short period of time.” But he was visibly irritated when asked whether his diplomatic blitz was merely designed to buy time with his Western interlocutors. “We have never chosen deceit as a path; we have never chosen secrecy,” he said.

The last time an American president spoke with an Iranian leader was in 1979, when Jimmy Carter talked by telephone with Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi shortly before he left the country, according to an Iran expert. The last time the American and Iranian leaders met in person was on Dec. 31, 1977, when Mr. Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, spent New Year’s Eve as a guest of the shah. As he made a toast to the shah at a state dinner, Mr. Carter said the idea for the trip came from Mrs. Carter, when he asked her with whom she would like to celebrate the holiday.

“We have no other nation on earth who is closer to us in planning for our mutual military security,” Mr. Carter said then. “We have no other nation with whom we have closer consultation on regional problems that concern us both. And there is no leader with whom I have a deeper sense of personal gratitude and personal friendship.”

Less than two years later, after an Islamic revolution ousted the shah, an angry crowd overran the American Embassy in Tehran, holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days and plunging relations between Iran and the United States into a deep freeze from which they have yet to emerge.

By: Peter Baker | The New York Times
Mark Landler contributed reporting from Washington, and Somini Sengupta from the United Nations.


Roxie H (350)
Friday September 27, 2013, 6:28 pm
I think this is absolutely fantastic! High 5 on this!

Lois Jordan (63)
Friday September 27, 2013, 6:34 pm
Noted. Thanks, Kit. Well, it's about time! Obama (who I voted for 2ce), seems to have flipped 180 and is beginning to earn that Peace Prize. I can only hope things continue in this direction. High 5 back at you, Roxy!

Arielle S (313)
Friday September 27, 2013, 6:44 pm
Nobody makes friends with a closed fist...I applaud the president for this move.

Kit B (276)
Friday September 27, 2013, 6:49 pm

I'm going with a fist bump - because this guy is exactly what he says. He takes his time, he follows up on what he says, uses just enough force to make sure he is taken seriously and allows things to come to him. I know the republicans are groaning about this and frankly my dears, I don't care.

David C (131)
Friday September 27, 2013, 7:13 pm
awesome......another good reason that Mr. Obama is our President even if his years haven't been good enough......ALL WE ARE SAYING IS GIVE PEACE A CHANCE........

JL A (281)
Friday September 27, 2013, 7:29 pm
I'm with Dave--and am glad enough of the public spoke out for diplomacy in two countries of late to support Obama in going this route.

Yvonne White (229)
Friday September 27, 2013, 8:11 pm
Hope this causes massive heart-attacks amongst Reich-wing WarHawks! ;)

Past Member (0)
Saturday September 28, 2013, 5:04 am

lee e (114)
Saturday September 28, 2013, 5:27 am
I don't love Obama any more - but will give him high marks for this diplomatic coup - very well done - I don't trust that peace will win out - but this is certainly good - better to know the face behind the people we may be bombing next week :)

Marija M (29)
Saturday September 28, 2013, 5:35 am
well done; it is never to late

Helen Porter (39)
Saturday September 28, 2013, 5:56 am
Those two should understand each other pretty well. They are both lying deceptive controllers.

. (0)
Saturday September 28, 2013, 7:11 am
It's about time something like this happened. Thanks for sharing, Kit.

Anne P (174)
Saturday September 28, 2013, 7:19 am
This is true progress. Thank you, Mr. President! (and Kit for sharing)

Robert B (60)
Saturday September 28, 2013, 8:29 am
I don't trust peace to win out, I EXPECT Peace to WIN OUT. THAT is the difference that we all need to realize. We must EXPECT what is right not simple hope and trust it will work out. We need to stand up to the bullies of the world and EXPECT A HIGHER STANDARD.

Kit B (276)
Saturday September 28, 2013, 11:09 am

A phone call is not peace, but it is a step toward peace.

. (0)
Saturday September 28, 2013, 11:23 am
Skeptical and there is a hidden agenda here that hasn't as of yet become unoccluded.

Bryna Pizzo (139)
Saturday September 28, 2013, 12:44 pm
Any step in the right direction is just that, and it's more than we have seen in decades. Thank you for sharing the news. I follow the news about Syria and Iran closely, and pray for peace.

Thomas P (280)
Saturday September 28, 2013, 12:53 pm
Noted...thanks Kit. I'm stoked about this. I feel it was so long overdue. I'm glad that President Obama and President Rouhani both had the courage to allow this happen. I don't see how we have anything to lose by this. There is nothing weak in extending a hand to one's "enemy," although I don't feel we need to be enemies with Iran.

Barbara K (60)
Saturday September 28, 2013, 1:09 pm
I truly hope that we can normalize relations with Iran and be allies. We don't need more enemies. Give peace a chance there. I think if anyone can make it possible, it is President Obama. I hope they shut down any nuclear program if one is in the makings and prove it. Let's go for it. Thanks, my friend.

Past Member (0)
Saturday September 28, 2013, 7:41 pm
I am watching this development with scepticism: Rouhani was the cheat, saving time for Iran to develop nukes, for over two years.

Obama is no match to him. We shall see, if Iranians finally decided to give peace a chance, or, after successfully running gas attack in Syria with UN or US doing nothing, just started another game.
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