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Will Obama Talk To Iran As Enrichment Continues?

During the campaign and the beginning of his presidency, President Obama promised to open up the U.S.'s relationship with Tehran and to use diplomacy to get Iran to stop its nuclear program. Now we are starting to get a picture about how the administration plans to achieve that.

Mr. Obama's efforts began with a videotaped message to the Iranian people a few weeks ago, on the country's new year.

And according to the New York Times today, the Obama administration is now preparing to break from the Bush administration's strategy in a bid to restart negotiations over Iran's nuclear program.

The Times reports that according to officials, the U.S. and European allies will drop - as a precondition of talks - the insistence that Iran immediately shut down its nuclear facilities. (You can read more from the Times here.)

The new strategy would involve pressing Iran to allow more inspections of the facilities. The country would be allowed to continue enriching uranium, at least for the time being. That's a change from former President George W. Bush, who demanded that Iran stop enrichment in order for talks to begin. However, administration officials also maintain that U.S. policy will require Iran to ultimately end enrichment.

It's important to note that, according to the Times, discussions among Mr. Obama's aides are continuing and decisions are not yet final. And White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today denied that there had been any changes to policy.

"The president had some very productive conversations around G-20," Gibbs said. "There was unity among the participants about the strategy moving forward and that the goal remains very clear. The goal is and remains a suspension of Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program."

"The goal remains the same. And… despite what one might read, unchanged," Gibbs added.

The administration certainly does not want to announce any new policy shifts such as the one reported today before they are ready. Any allowance for Iran to continue enrichment is likely to be met with objections from conservatives in the U.S. and from the new Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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