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US open to bilateral or P5 +1 talks with Iran: Obama

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 13:41

Washington: US President Barack Obama on Tuesday said Washington is open to both P5+1 nuclear talk or those through bilateral channels with Tehran, a day after newly elected Iranian president promised greater openness in his country`s nuclear programme.

However, Obama was cautious in his approach with the new Iranian leadership noting that the real power still rests with the supreme leader and Tehran needs to show the international community on abiding by its commitment.

"We are open to discussions - both through the P5+1 and through potential bilateral channels. We recognise that you`re not going to solve problems all upfront, as a precondition for talks," Obama told the popular `Charlie Rose` in an interview.

"But there has to be a serious recognition that the sanctions we put in place, for example, the most powerful economic sanctions that have ever been applied against Iran, that those will not be lifted in the absence of significant steps in showing the international community that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon. As long as there`s an understanding about the basis of the conversation, then I think there`s no reason why we shouldn`t proceed," he said.

Iran`s President-elect Hassan Rowhani, a moderate cleric, yesterday raised hopes of an easing of strained ties with West, saying "the idea is to engage in more active negotiations with the 5+1, as the nuclear issue cannot be resolved without negotiations."

Referring to the recently held elections, Obama said the Iranian people want to move in a different direction.

"If you contrast this with the violence and suppression that happened in the last presidential election, obviously you have a much more positive atmosphere this time. The Iranian people rebuffed the hardliners and the clerics in the election who were counseling no compromise on anything any time anywhere," he said.

"Clearly you have a hunger within Iran to engage with the international community in a more positive way. Now, Mr Rowhani, who won the election, I think indicated his interest in shifting how Iran approaches many of these international questions, but I think we understand that under their system the supreme leader will be making a lot of decisions."

Iran has been engaged since 2006 with the P5+1 - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US, plus Germany - over its nuclear work. The West accuses Iran of covertly developing nuclear weapons, a charge denied by Tehran.

"We`re going to have to continue to see how this develops and how this evolves over the next several weeks, months, years. I do think that there`s a possibility that the Iranians decide to take us up on our offer to engage in a more serious substantive way," he said.

"Our bottom lines have been, show the international community that you`re abiding by international treaties and obligations, that you`re not developing a nuclear weapon.

"Based on that, there are a whole range of measures that can be taken to try to normalise the relationship between Iran and the world, but we don`t know yet if they`re going to be willing to take up that offer. They have not been during my entire first term, when we showed ourselves open to these discussions," Obama added.


First Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 13:40
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