(Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed “cautious” optimism on Monday that the election of a moderate cleric in Iran’s presidential poll would open up dialogue with Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.
Iranians voted Friday to elect moderate cleric Hassan Rohani to be their next president.
The president runs the economy and wields important influence in day-to-day decision-making, but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on major issues including national security and Iran’s nuclear program.
Washington and its Western allies accuse Tehran of pursuing nuclear weapons and have imposed sanctions on Iran that have damaged its economy and triggered a rise in inflation and unemployment. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at generating power.
“In Iran, we both … expressed cautious optimism that with a new election there, we may be able to move forward on a dialogue that allows us to resolve the problems with Iran’s nuclear program,” Obama told reporters during a meeting with Putin at the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland.
The comments were his first in public about the Iranian election.
“I hope that after the elections in Iran there will be new opportunities to solve the Iranian nuclear problem. And we’ll be trying to do that bilaterally and in the international negotiations process,” Putin said, according to translated remarks.
Their agreement on Iran contrasted with tension over the civil war in Syria, about which both men acknowledged having differing views.
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