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In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, President Barack Obama said it is in the interest of the world and of Iran itself that the Islamic Republic "set aside ambitions for a nuclear weapon."

Mr. Obama said Iran "has the potential to be an extraordinarily powerful and prosperous country," but Iran is more likely to achieve that potential in the absence of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region.

President Obama said that Iran does have "legitimate energy concerns [and] legitimate aspirations." The key right now, he said, "is to initiate a process that is meaningful, that is rigorous, between not only the United States and Iran, bilaterally, but also continuing the P5 plus one discussions in a way that is constructive."

President Obama has changed U.S. policy and is pursuing a diplomatic strategy that includes participating fully in diplomatic discussions with Iran over its nuclear program with representatives from Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany. Mr. Obama told the BBC that if "thirty years of loggerheads between Iran and the United States" are preventing the Iranians from seeing the dangers presented by their pursuit of nuclear weapons, the United States wants to open the door to discussions "and see if they walk through."

Mr. Obama also said that part of the solution he envisions is "to reinvigorate a much broader agenda for nuclear nonproliferation - including the United States and Russia drawing down our stockpiles in very significant ways." This, said Mr. Obama, could lessen the Iranians feeling "that they are treated differently than anybody else. That," he said, "makes them embattled."

Part and parcel of our broader agenda, said President Obama, is "a broader conversation about how all countries have an interest in containing and reducing over time . . .nuclear proliferation."

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