Obama trumpets progress in Iran nuke talks

The president celebrates a step towards inspections of nuclear facilities, but lays down some demands

By Alex Koppelman

Published October 1, 2009 8:30PM (EDT)

The news about Iran and its nuclear program hasn't been great recently, what with the announcement last week that the country has a secret uranium enrichment facility that it's hidden for years. But the picture got a little brighter on Tuesday after talks between Iran and a group of nations including Russia, China, France, the U.K. and Germany.

The negotiations marked "the highest-level direct discussions" between the U.S. and Iran "in many years," the New York Times reports. And they seem to have led to some real progress: Iran says it will allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency in to inspect the facility that was revealed last week. There will also be further talks between the two sides.

In remarks Thursday afternoon, President Obama celebrated the developments, but continued taking a hard rhetorical line about Iran's nuclear program.

"Today’s meeting was a constructive beginning, but it must be followed by constructive action by the Iranian government," Obama said. "First, Iran must demonstrate its commitment to transparency ... Since Iran has now agreed to cooperate fully and immediately with the International Atomic Energy Agency, it must grant unfettered access to IAEA inspectors within two weeks ... Second, Iran must take concrete steps to build confidence that its nuclear program will serve peaceful purposes -- steps that meet Iran’s obligations under multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions"

Obama also laid down a marker, a sort of carrot and stick approach, warning of consequences if there isn't additional progress. "If Iran does not take steps in the near future to live up to its obligations, then the United States will not continue to negotiate indefinitely, and we are prepared to move towards increased pressure," he said. "If Iran takes concrete steps and lives up to its obligations, there is a path towards a better relationship with the United States, increased integration with the international community, and a better future for all Iranians."

Update: Video of Obama's remarks is below.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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