President Barack Obama defends his plan to hold talks with Tehran, saying it will allow Iran and the US to understand their "differences."
"It is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran, to express very clearly where our differences are, but (also) where there are potential avenues for progress," said President Obama in his first interview with an Arab television since taking office.
While acknowledging US "mistakes" toward Muslims, President Obama said he would try to convince the Islamic world that Americans are not "the enemy".
"We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect," he said.
His remarks, recorded in Washington on Monday night, signaled a change in tone from that of the Bush administration.
During his presidential campaign and since the elections victory, Obama promised to engage "in aggressive personal diplomacy" with Iranian leaders to resolve the controversy surrounding the country's nuclear program.
The US, Israel and their European allies -- Britain, France and Germany -- accuse Iran of developing a military nuclear program, while the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory denies the charges.
Officials in Tehran contend that the only aim of their program is the civilian applications of the technology.
The administration of former US President George W. Bush spearheaded efforts to isolate Iran over its nuclear program by adopting punitive measures against the country as well as pushing for UN sanctions against the Islamic nation.
President Obama did not elaborate on whether he would follow in the footsteps of former President Bush by refusing to exclude military action against Iran's nuclear infrastructure.
He, however, said, "If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us."
Former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, believed to be a close ally of the Obama administration, has advocated the restoration of relations with Tehran by the new White House.
Following the Nov. 4 elections, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a congratulatory letter to the then Senator Obama, in what was viewed as Iran's openness to re-establish ties with the US.
Washington and Tehran have had no diplomatic ties for almost three decades. The two states ended all relations in the aftermath of US embassy takeover in Tehran in 1980.
The Swiss Embassy has been in charge of the US interest section in Iran.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that there was a clear opportunity for Iran to show that it is ready to "engage meaningfully" with the United States, suggesting that it might be up to the Iranians to make the first move.
Tue, 27 Jan 2009 18:40:59 GMT
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President Obama (right) says America is prepared to extend a hand of peace to Iran if the country unclenches its fist.
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