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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs