International Herald Tribune (Link) (March 20, 2009)
The EU's foreign policy chief on Friday welcomed President Barack Obama's offer to rebuild ties with Iran amid a standoff with the West over Tehran's nuclear activities. Javier Solana, who has led years of European negotiations with Iran, urged Iranian officials to accept the U.S. president's outstretched hand. "It's a very constructive message," he said at an EU summit in Brussels. "I hope that will open a new chapter in relations with Tehran."
In a video released Friday, Obama says the U.S. is prepared to end years of strained relations if Iranian officials tone down their warlike rhetoric. Iran has rejected pressure from the EU and the U.S. to give up its uranium enrichment program. The United States and allies fear Iran is building a nuclear weapons program, while Iran says it is only seeking atomic energy. "I hope very much that Iran will act intelligently" and accept the U.S. offer, Solana said.
Iran has been hit with successive waves of U.N. sanctions for defying calls to suspend uranium enrichment. Iranian officials have said they would welcome talks with the U.S., but only if American officials stop accusing Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons and supporting terrorism, charges Tehran has denied.
Germany hailed Obama's gesture. "It's exactly what the Europeans always wanted: to make an offer to Iran," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said sanctions should remain on the table, alongside continuing negotiations. "It can only be positive that the American president wants to recommit to the service of peace" by reaching out to Iran, Sarkozy said at the EU summit, but added that the policy of sanctions remains important.