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Obama Says He Spoke On The Phone With Iranian Leader

President Barack Obama talks with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran during a phone call in the Oval Office, Sept. 27, 2013.
Pete Souza
White House
President Barack Obama talks with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran during a phone call in the Oval Office, Sept. 27, 2013.

During an address at the White House, today, President Obama said that he spoke on the phone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

That detail is important in understanding just how serious the negotiations between the two countries have gotten. That talk was the first time the heads of states of the two countries have spoken directly since 1979.

In some ways, this isn't really surprising. They were on the verge of shaking hands this week, before Iran killed the deal saying that it was "too complicated." However, as we've reported, the newly-elected Rouhanihas taken a completely different tack than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Today,as the AP reports, Rouhani made another surprising statement, calling the U.S. a "great" nation.

Obama said that the U.S. and Iran have the "basis for a resolution." If you remember, the U.S. has imposed crushing sanctions on Iran, because it says the country is rushing toward making a nuclear bomb, while at the same time trying to hide its progress from the international community. Iran has always maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Obama said that after high level talks at the U.N., he has instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to continue the talks to find a resolution.

Rouhani has said that his country is willing to cooperate with the international community in order to tamp down fears that it is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Obama said that for relations between the two countries to normalize there must be "meaningful, transparent, verifiable action" from Iran.

Rouhani confirmed that conversation on his official twitter feed. Obama is quoted as telling him: " I express my respect for you and ppl of #Iran. I'm convinced that relations between Iran and US will greatly affect region. If we can make progress on #nuclear file, other issues such as #Syria will certainly be positively affected."

On the Twitter feed, Rouhani is quoted as responding: "In regards to #nuclear issue, with political #will, there is a way to rapidly solve the matter. We're hopeful about what we will see from P5+1 and your govt in particular in coming weeks and months."

The P5+1 refers to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, which got together in 2006 to try to negotiate a solution to this issue.

Update at 6:23 p.m. ET. Tweets Deleted:

Some time after we posted this, Rouhani's twitter account deleted the tweets we refer to above. There's quite a bit of conversation about that on Twitter.

Rouhani's account however, still acknowledges the phone call, saying:

"In phone convo, President #Rouhani and President @BarackObama expressed their mutual political #will to rapidly solve the #nuclear issue."

The San Diego Union-Tribune managed to archive the deleted tweets.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.