January 29, 2009 / 7:53 PM / in 9 years

Obama seeks comprehensive strategy toward Iran

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama believes the United States must use a comprehensive strategy, including diplomacy, to deal with Iran, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Thursday.

“We must use all elements of our national power to protect our interests as it relates to Iran. That includes, as the president talked about in the campaign, diplomacy where possible,” Gibbs said.

But one problem for the Obama administration was trying to establish who to speak to in Iran, Gibbs said, referring to the multiple centres of power in Tehran.

“We have many issues to work through -- an illicit nuclear program, the sponsorship of terrorism and the threatening of peace in Israel are just a few of the issues that this president believes the Iranian leadership must address,” Gibbs said at a news conference.

“It is unclear who exactly that dialogue would be with in Iran,” he said.

Asked whether Obama’s view was that the military option remained on the table, Gibbs said, “The president hasn’t changed his viewpoint that he should preserve all his options.”

Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, had always insisted that all options, including military action, remained on the table in dealing with Iran, though he said he was seeking a diplomatic solution.

Gibbs also dismissed a British newspaper report that the Obama administration was drafting a letter to Iran from the president aimed thawing relations between the two arch-foes.

“Neither the president nor the secretary of state has seen such a letter,” Gibbs said. “So I think that sort of closes the book on that.”

Reporting by Ross Colvin, Editing by Doina Chiacu

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