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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs