|Obama spoke minutes after Rouhani posted, and then deleted, a tweet breaking the news that the two had spoken on the phone|
President Barack Obama surprised reporters in the White House press briefing room Friday by saying he had spoken personally with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani about a resolution to his nation's nuclear standoff with the West.
The call, a senior White House official said, was initiated when Iranian officials 'reached out' to the White House about a conversation between the two leaders.
'Just now I spoke on the phone with President Rouhani," Obama said, adding that he communicated 'my unique respect for the Iranian people.'
'We're mindful of all the challenges ahead,' he told reporters. 'The very fact that this was the first communication between an American and Iranian president since 1979 underscores the deep mistrust between our countries.'
'But,' he added, 'it also indicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history. I do believe that there is a basis for a resolution.'
Ultimately, Obama said, he sees 'a new opportunity to make progress in Tehran,' and 'believe[s] we can reach a comprehensive solution.'
The two men spoke through an interpreter, the White House said, boasting that Obama was able to offer a farewell in Farsi at the end of the call.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit the White House on Monday in what promises to be a tense meeting.
In a conference call with reporters, a senior official said the U.S. would 'continue to keep the Israeli government updated on the process of this diplomatic effort,' and conceded that 'the Israeli government has every right to be skeptical of the Iranian government' given past 'inflammatory statements' Tel Aviv has seen coming out of Tehran, including 'threats towards Israel's existence.'
The Drudge Report, an influential news clearinghouse website, pointed out after Obama spoke that he had, in the same press event, both announced his negotiation with Tehran over its nuclear program and insisted that he would refuse to negotiate with Republican lawmakers in Congress over a budget deal for the 2014 fiscal year.
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