Obama: US looking for dialogue with Iran

WASHINGTON - The United States is looking for opportunities for "face-to-face" dialogue with Iran after nearly three decades without diplomatic ties, President Barack Obama said Monday. "There's been a lot of mistrust built up over the years, so it's not going to happen overnight," Obama said during his first prime-time news conference Monday night. He said his administration is reviewing existing U.S. policy toward Iran, which supports groups Washington has branded terrorist organizations and has defied U.N. demands to halt its uranium enrichment programme. Despite those concerns, he said his administration wants to use "all the resources at the United States' disposal" to resolve those concerns. "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," Obama said. OBAMA DEFLECTS Moments after he outlined US policy on Iran in which he voiced his concern over Tehran's nuclear programme, a senior White House correspondent asked the president whether any country in the Middle East possessed atomic weapons-- an obvious reference to Israel's nuclear arsenal that Washington never talks about. Obama deflected the question, saying a nuclear arms race must be avoided in that volatile region. But when the correspondent, Helen Thomas of UPI, insited that the president specific and name the country, Obama pretended not hear her and gave the to another journalist. Afghanistan a 'challenge,' Obama says SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT WASHINGTON - An aloof national government and terrorist groups operating along its border with Pakistan make Afghanistan a challenge, U.S. President Barack Obama said. Afghanistan won't experience the "relatively peaceful" election that Iraq had recently because the Afghan government "seems very detached from what's going on in the surrounding community," Obama said during the first news prime-time news conference of his presidency. Concerning Taliban and al-Qaeda militants operating along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Obama said officials haven't seen "the kind of concerted effort to root out those safe havens that would ultimately make our mission successful." The US policy toward Afghanistan is undergoing a review, he said, adding that the effort will need a more effective coordination of military efforts with diplomacy and development initiatives. "The bottom line though," he said, "is this is a situation in which a region served as the base to launch an attack that killed 3,000 Americans." US efforts must be smart, effective and consistent to ensure terrorist safe havens along the border no longer exist, he said. "I do not have yet a timetable for how long that's going to take," Obama said. "What I know is I'm not going to make -- I'm not going to allow al-Qaeda or (Osama) bin Laden to operate with impunity, planning attacks on the U.S. homeland."

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