News / USA

Obama Speaks by Phone to Iran's Rouhani

President Barack Obama talks with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran during a phone call in the Oval Office, Sept. 27, 2013.
President Barack Obama talks with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran during a phone call in the Oval Office, Sept. 27, 2013.
President Obama and Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, have spoken by telephone, discussing efforts to resolve long-running international concerns over Iran's nuclear program.  It was the first such contact in more than 30 years.

Obama revealed his phone call with President Rouhani at the beginning of a previously unscheduled appearance in the White House briefing room.

"I reiterated to President Rouhani what I said in New York.  Although there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution," said President Obama.

A senior administration official said the White House received word Friday morning that Rouhani wanted to talk with President Obama before the Iranian leader departed New York.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks to journalists during a news conference in New York September 27, 2013.Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks to journalists during a news conference in New York September 27, 2013.
x
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks to journalists during a news conference in New York September 27, 2013.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks to journalists during a news conference in New York September 27, 2013.
The approximately 15-minute phone conversation was "cordial" and conducted through interpreters, with President Obama beginning by congratulating Rouhani for his victory in Iran's election.

The administration official said the White House had also noticed President Rouhani's tweets to Obama, which expressed gratitude for his hospitality and the phone call.

President Obama said he and the Iranian leader directed their teams to "continue working expeditiously" in cooperation with the P5+1 group of nations to pursue an agreement.

Even with the history of mistrust between the U.S. and Iran, Obama said, steps taken so far could offer hope for resolving the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

"We are mindful of all the challenges ahead.  The very fact that this was the first communication between an American and an Iranian president since 1979 underscores the deep mistrust between our countries, but it also indicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history," said Obama.

Iran has always denied that the program is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon.  It has faced increasingly harsh economic sanctions designed to pressure it to meet international obligations.

Obama again mentioned a "fatwa" by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khameini against the development of nuclear weapons, and a similar pledge by President Rouhani to the world body.

He said the United States respects the right of Iran to access peaceful nuclear energy, in the context of Iran meeting its obligations.

Obama said there is "a basis for resolution," but that the test of Iran's commitment will be meaningful, transparent and verifiable actions that could also bring Iran relief from economic sanctions.

"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 have a responsibility to pursue diplomacy and we have a unique opportunity to make progress with the new leadership in Tehran," he said.

The administration official said President Obama would engage in additional direct contacts with Rouhani if it would be helpful in resolving the Iranian nuclear issue.

The official indicated that the meeting in New York between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran's foreign minister created a "positive environment" for the phone call.

The official said the U.S. has been in touch with other governments about the conversation, including Israel and Gulf nations, and with members of Congress.

The official said Israel has "every right to be skeptical" given the history of inflammatory statements by Iran, but that the U.S. is trying to achieve an objective that would serve the security interests of the U.S., Israel and world.

On Capitol Hill, House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce credited "damaging sanctions" for getting the Iranian leader on the phone with Obama, adding that pressure must be maintained.

Obama also spoke about what he called a "major diplomatic breakthrough," the path toward an expected United Nations Security Council vote on a binding resolution to place chemical weapons under international control.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More