Wed, Jan 28, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Obama calls on Tehran to ‘unclench’ fist

AFP , WASHINGTON

US President Barack Obama on Monday said that the US would offer arch-foe Iran an extended hand of diplomacy if the Islamic Republic’s leaders “unclenched their fist.”

Obama said he would in the next few months lay out a general framework of policy towards Tehran in an interview with Dubai-based al-Arabiya satellite TV network.

“As I said in my inauguration speech, if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us,” Obama said.

“It is very important for us to make sure that we are using all the tools of US power, including diplomacy, in our relationship with Iran,” he said.

Earlier, Susan Rice, the new US ambassador to the UN made her debut and pledged vigorous” and “direct” nuclear diplomacy with Iran but warned of increased pressure if Tehran refuses to halt uranium enrichment.

“We will look at what is necessary and appropriate with respect to maintaining pressure toward that goal of ending Iran’s nuclear program,” she said.

“Dialogue and diplomacy must go hand in hand with a very firm message from the United States and the international community that Iran needs to meet its obligations as defined by the Security Council and its continued refusal to do so will only cause pressure to increase,” she said.

The five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany have offered Tehran economic and energy incentives in exchange for halting its uranium enrichment program, which the West sees as a cover to acquire a nuclear weapons capability.

But Tehran is pressing on with sensitive nuclear fuel work, insisting that its nuclear program is peaceful.

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