Clinton open to more engagement with Iran

By Teri Finneman

Feb 10, 2009 5:04pm

ABC News’ Kirit Radia reports: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today held the door open for more engagement with Iran, echoing remarks made last night by President Barack Obama. She also said the United States is willing to scrap a planned missile defense program in Eastern Europe if Iran changes its behavior.

"There is an opportunity for the Iranian government to demonstrate a willingness to unclench their fist and to begin a serious and responsible discussion about a range of matters. We still persist in our view that Iran should not obtain nuclear weapons, that it would be a very unfortunate course for them to pursue. And we hope that there will be opportunities in the future for us to develop a better understanding of one another and to work out a way of talking that would produce positive results for the people of Iran," Clinton told reporters at the State Department, where she spoke alongside Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose country holds the 6-month rotating EU presidency.

Last night at his first prime time news conference, President Obama told reporters, "My national security team is currently reviewing our existing Iran policy, looking at areas where we can have constructive dialogue, where we can directly engage with them. And my expectation is, in the coming months, we will be looking for openings that can be created where we can start sitting across the table, face to face, diplomatic overtures that will allow us to move our policy in a new direction."

Soon thereafter, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded positively, saying his country was willing to talk with the United States, but wanted fundamental changes in American behavior first.

Clinton also signaled that a planned Missile Defense Shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, said to be a defense against a missile or even nuclear strike from Iran, may not be necessary if Iran changes its behavior. Her remarks signal what could be another carrot for Tehran to change its behavior as the U.S. and its allies look to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

"If the Iranians continue on this path, certainly one of the options for free countries, like the Czech Republic, other Europeans and the United States, is to defend ourselves. So this is one of those issues that really will rest with the decisions made by the Iranian government," Clinton said.

"If we are able to see a change in behavior on the part of the Iranians with respect to what we believe to be their pursuit of nuclear weapons, you know, then – you know, we will reconsider where we stand. But we are a long, long way from seeing such evidence of any behavior change," she added.

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus