Obama Looks for Openings for Face-to-Face Talks With Iran

WASHINGTON -- President Obama said Monday his administration is looking for opportunities to engage longtime adversary Iran in the coming months, but that years of mistrust will be hard to overcome.

In his first prime-time news conference as president, Obama repeated campaign pledges to rethink the U.S. relationship with Iran, but offered no examples of possible partnership.

"My national security team is currently reviewing our existing Iran policy, looking at areas where we can have constructive dialogue, where we can directly engage with them," Obama said. "My expectation is that in the coming months we will be looking for openings that can be created where we can start sitting across the table face to face."

The most promising areas for cooperation are probably Afghanistan and Iraq, both neighbors of Iran where the United States is fighting wars. Especially in Afghanistan, Iran has a strong interest in containing insurgent violence and the drug trade that threaten to spill over Iran's borders.

Obama repeated the usual list of U.S. complaints against Iran, including alleged financial support for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and "bellicose language" directed at U.S. ally Israel. He also said Iran's nuclear program threatens to rock the Middle East and could set off a new arms race.

Iran denies it is pursuing a covert weapons program and insists its accelerated nuclear development program is aimed at producing electrical power. Despite broad doubts about the true nature of Iran's nuclear program, there is no public, irrefutable proof that the Islamic republic is using a legitimate energy program to build an illicit bomb.