Obama pledges to test Iran’s willingness for dialogue

Obama pledges to test Iran’s willingness for dialogue
US President Barack Obama speaks at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington on September 16, 2013.

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama pledged on Tuesday to test the sincerity of signs that new Iranian President Hassan Rowhani may be ready for a newly productive nuclear dialogue with the West.

Days after revealing he and Rowhani had swapped letters, Obama however said that Iran would have to demonstrate its own seriousness by agreeing not to "weaponize nuclear power."

"There is an opportunity here for diplomacy," Obama said in an interview with the Spanish language television network Telemundo.

"I hope the Iranians take advantage of it. There are indications that Rowhani, the new president, is somebody who is looking to open dialogue with the West and with the United States - in a way that we haven't seen in the past.

"And so we should test it," Obama said.

Hopes for a new round of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers expected to resume soon were boosted earlier Tuesday by cryptic remarks by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei, who bears ultimate responsibility for the nuclear issue, said that sometimes flexibility was necessary in diplomacy.

On September 11, Rowhani said he had the tacit support of Khamenei for "flexibility" in nuclear talks.

Rowhani has said he wants to allay Western concerns but that he will not renounce Iran's goal of an independent civil nuclear programme.

Washington and its allies say Iran's nuclear programme is designed to produce weapons and is unacceptable. Obama has refused to rule out US military action against Iran if diplomacy fails.

Iran insists that its nuclear ambitions are directed towards civilian energy generation.

There is renewed speculation that Obama and Rowhani could have some kind of informal meeting in New York next week at the UN General Assembly in New York.

The White House said for the second day running Tuesday that it has no current plans for such an encounter - but did not dismiss the possibility out of hand.

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