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MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. President Barack Obama has condemned yesterday's comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad suggesting the US government was behind the 9/11 attacks. Mr. Obama gave an interview to the BBC's Persian Television service this morning in hopes of reaching millions of viewers inside Iran. The World's Jeb Sharp has more.
JEB SHARP: The President was asked right off the bat to respond to the Iranian leader's remarks yesterday.
BARACK OBAMA: It was offensive, it was hateful. And particularly for him to make this statement here in Manhattan just a little north of ground zero where families lost their loved ones, people of all faiths, all ethnicities who see this as the seminal tragedy of this generation. For him to make a statement like that was inexcusable. And it stands in contrast with the response of the Iranian people when 9/11 happened, when there were candlelight vigils, and I think, a natural sense of shared humanity and sympathy was expressed within Iran.
SHARP: President Obama was clearly using the interview on BBC Persian to reach out to Iranians and to exploit that apparent gap between the Iranian people and the Iranian regime. He reiterated his longstanding offer of dialogue.
OBAMA: What I've said consistently is that we are willing to reach out with an open hand to the Iranian government and the Iranian people because we believe that there's nothing inevitable that should cause Iran and the United States to be enemies. There's a history there that is difficult but it can be bridged with mutual understanding, mutual respect and we want to see the people of Iran ultimately succeed.
SHARP: But it's unlikely the two countries will overcome that history unless there's progress toward resolving the nuclear issue. The international community has tightened sanctions on Iran recently in hopes of persuading the leadership to return to nuclear talks. President Obama defended that policy in his interview today.
OBAMA: But the government has taken Iran on a path that has lead to international condemnation. I think it's very important to understand that the sanctions that arose this year had to do with the fact that alone among signatories to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; Iran has not been able to convince the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful. That's not just my judgement, that's the judgement of the international community, including countries like Russia and China, that generally are very hesitant to impose sanctions on other countries.
SHARP: President Obama said ï¿½a whole host of optionsï¿½ remained if sanctions didn't work. He stressed that he and other leaders preferred to resolve the nuclear issue diplomatically but he wouldn't answer a question about whether the United States would stop Israel from attacking Iran, saying he ï¿½didn't want to engage in hypotheticals.ï¿½ For The World, I'm Jeb Sharp.