President Obama backed Iran's claim that it has a right to nuclear energy if the country proves by the end of the year that its aspirations are peaceful.
Obama told the BBC in an interview broadcast Tuesday that he believes "Iran has legitimate energy concerns, legitimate aspirations," adding that the international community also "has a very real interest" in preventing a nuclear arms race.
The interview comes on the heels of Obama's most important trip of his fledgling presidency, a face-to-face encounter with the Muslim world. Obama's five-day pilgrimage to Egypt this week culminates with a long-promised speech on U.S. relations with the Muslim world.
With that, some speculation is swirling that the U.S. effort to reach Muslims is accompanied by its distancing itself from Israel, which is under pressure by the Obama administration to freeze its settlements in the West Bank.
Obama's speech aims to help repair a strained relationship between the United States and the Muslim world that is critical to pressuring Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program, which the international community fears is a cover for building a nuclear bomb.
Obama will deliver the speech at Cairo University, that White House officials call a bastion of secular Muslim thinking that reflects the side of Islam that the U.S. is appealing to in its case for a strategic partnership.
"Egypt is not only a strategic ally of the United States, but it, like the rest of the Muslim world, is a young country which obviously presents the United States with a terrific opportunity to deepen this cooperation that has really developed over the course of the last several decades, but to deepen that and to press it forward here into the future," Denis McDonough, deputy national security advisor said.
"So the message the president wants to send is not different, frankly, than the one he's been sending since he was inaugurated, namely that we believe that this is an opportunity for us in the United States, who frankly, have arrived at a place here based on many of the advances that come out of the Muslim world, be it science out of Baghdad, be it math and technology out of Al-Andalus (University) or otherwise," he continued.
In his efforts to engage the Muslim world, Obama said during his inaugural speech that the United States "will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist. He also declared earlier this spring in Turkey that the United States "is not and never will be at war with Islam."
Obama has granted interviews to Arabic-language networks, telephoned friendly Arab leaders and sent special envoy George J. Mitchell to the Middle East on a "listening tour."
Obama has rejected the notion that efforts to engage the Arab world comes at the sacrifice of Israel, telling National Public Radio that the U.S. must "retain a constant belief in the possibilities of negotiations that will lead to peace."
"And that's going to require, from my view, a two-state solution that is going to require that each side -- the Israelis and Palestinians -- meet their obligations," he said.
Obama explained those obligations include Israelis freezing settlements and Palestinians continuing to make security gains and ending incitement that worries Israel.
"So the key is to just believe that the process can move forward and that all sides are going to have to give," he added. "And it's not going to be an easy path, but one that I think we can achieve."
But foreign policy experts say achieving a successful peace plan faces long odds, particularly considering that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already rejected Obama's call to freeze settlements, setting up a potential confrontation.