News / Middle East

Obama Urges Iran to Seize 'Door of Opportunity' in Nuclear Talks

President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the Oval Office of the White House, Jan. 13, 2014.
President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the Oval Office of the White House, Jan. 13, 2014.
President Barack Obama says Iran should seize a "door of opportunity" to achieve a final comprehensive nuclear deal with the international community, and he has appealed again to lawmakers not to pass legislation imposing new sanctions.

Obama spoke after talks with the visiting Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy Brey, covering bilateral and European economic issues, as well as a range of foreign policy and security matters.

Obama's message to Congress has been that new sanctions now would jeopardize chances for a peaceful resolution with Iran of international concerns about its nuclear program.

On Monday he said the interim Joint Plan of Action allows "time and space" to negotiate a comprehensive deal, and he said lawmakers should give the process "a chance."

"My preference is for peace and diplomacy and this is one of the reasons why I have sent a message to Congress that now is not the time for us to impose new sanctions, now is the time for us to allow the diplomats and technical experts to do their work," Obama said.

Forging a final deal will not be easy, he said, but he urged Tehran to seize the opportunity.

"If Iran is willing to walk through the door of opportunity that is presented to them, then I have no doubt that it can open up extraordinary opportunities for Iran and their people," Obama said. "If they fail to walk through this door of opportunity, then we are in a position to reverse any interim agreement, and put in place additional pressure to make sure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon."

A six-month period begins January 20 for the U.S., partners in the P5+1 group of nations, and Iran to reach agreement on a final deal.

Obama has said he would veto any bill arriving at his desk from Capitol Hill that imposed new sanctions during the period of negotiations for a comprehensive agreement.  

But even as agreement on the Joint Plan of Action with Iran was announced this past Sunday, U.S. lawmakers showed little sign of decreased determination to press ahead with a sanctions bill.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says Congress could always impose new sanctions if Iran failed to fulfill obligations under the interim agreement, or failed to reach a final comprehensive accord.

"Obviously if Iran violated the terms of the agreement or failed to reach a resolution with the P5+1 over the six -period, Congress we're confident could act very quickly in response to that and pass new sanctions at that time that could be implemented very quickly," he said.

Carney added that the administration is confident Iran understands that any failure to abide by commitments in the implementation agreement or reach a final resolution would result in action by the U.S. and international community.

In his remarks, Obama also made his first comment about critical remarks former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made in a just-published memoir.

Gates questioned Obama's personal commitment to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.  Obama described Gates as an outstanding secretary of defense and a friend, and said what is important is getting Afghan policy right.

"Whenever you have got men and women that you are sending into harm's way after having already made enormous investments of blood and treasure in another country, that part of your job as commander-in-chief is to sweat the details on it and to recognize that there is enormous sacrifices that are being made and you are constantly asking yourselves questions about how you can improve the strategy,"
he said.

Saying he has faith in the mission and "unwavering confidence" in U.S. troops,  Obama noted the U.S. is on track to end combat operations by the end of 2014.

He made no mention of the Bilateral Security Agreement, which Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been refusing to sign.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs