Obama and Rouhani talk, first direct US-Iran contact since 1979 | News | DW | 27.09.2013
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Obama and Rouhani talk, first direct US-Iran contact since 1979

President Barack Obama and President Hasan Rouhani have spoken on the phone, the first verbal contact between the US and Iranian heads of government since 1979. The call came at the end of Rouhani's visit to New York.

US-Iranian diplomatic relations moved one step forward on Friday with a phone call between the leaders of the two countries. The conversation was the first between presidents of the US and Iran since the Islamic Revolution in Tehran over three decades ago.

Obama confirmed the phone call had taken place when he spoke to reporters at a White House press conference later on Friday. The incident was also confirmed in an official statement issued on the Iranian presidency's website.

"The two [presidents] insisted on a political will for quick resolution to the nuclear issue, as well as paving the [way] for resolving other issues and cooperation in regional issues," Rouhani's website said.

Obama and Rouhani reportedly discussed their plans for moving negotiations forward as quickly as possible. The conversation took place as the Iranian president was on his way to the airport.

"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," Obama told White House reporters following the phone call.

The Iranian president began a charm offensive soon after taking office this summer. Just ahead of his visit to the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week, he indicated his government's willingness to enter negotiations over developing a nuclear program. He said Iran had no intention of developing a nuclear bomb and repeated previous claims that Tehran wants to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, have been tasked with following up the high-level talks in order to begin laying the groundwork for further cooperation.

'Shared interest'

Earlier on Friday, Rouhani told reporters he wanted to use upcoming nuclear talks to help re-establish trust between Iran and international leaders.

"The atmosphere is quite different from the past," Rouhani told reporters at a press conference on the fringes of the UN General Assembly. "Our goal is the shared interest between the two nations. Our goal is resolving problems, our goal is step-by-step creating trust between the governments and peoples."

He added that Iran's plan for a resolution on its nuclear program would be presented at a P5+1 meeting - the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany - slated for Geneva on October 15 and 16.

Meanwhile in Vienna, officials from the two countries held a meeting to discuss Iran's controversial nuclear program. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Tehran has yet to deliver definitive proof that it is peaceful.

The talks on Friday were "very constructive," according to IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts. The next meeting, on October 28, could "start substantial discussions on the way forward to resolve all outstanding issues."

The Vienna negotiations came a day after the foreign ministers from Iran and the P5+1 nations met for similar talks.

kms/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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