(AFP) – Nov 7, 2008
CHICAGO (AFP) — US President-elect Barack Obama said on Friday that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons was "unacceptable" and he would "respond appropriately" to a congratulatory letter from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Obama, speaking at his first press conference since winning Tuesday's presidential election, also said the Islamic Republic must stop supporting "terrorist organizations."
The Democratic president-elect confirmed that he had been sent a letter from Ahmadinejad following his historic victory over Republican John McCain.
"I am aware that the letter was sent," Obama said in response to the only question of the press conference about foreign policy. "I will be reviewing the letter from President Ahmadinejad and we will respond appropriately."
"It has only been three days since the election," he added. "Obviously, how we approach and deal with a country like Iran is not something that we should, you know, simply do in a knee-jerk fashion.
"I think we've got to think it through."
Asked whether he would send low-level envoys to US foes such as Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and Cuba to see if presidential-level talks could be "productive," Obama responded by condemning Iran's nuclear program.
"Let me repeat and state what I stated during the course of the campaign," he said. "Iran's development of a nuclear weapon I believe is unacceptable. We have to mount an international effort to prevent that from happening."
Obama added that "Iran's support of terrorist organizations, I think, is something that has to cease."
The president-elect stressed during the 20-minute press conference that he has not yet taken office.
"I have to reiterate once again, we only have one president at a time," he said. "I want to be very careful that we are sending the right signals to the world as a whole that I am not the president and I won't be until January 20."
Obama and McCain clashed repeatedly during the election campaign over the approach to take towards Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba.
Obama said he would explore the possibility of direct talks with the US foes, a stand condemned by McCain.
Ahmadinejad on Thursday congratulated Obama on his election.
"I congratulate you on being able to attract the majority of votes of the participants of the election," Ahmadinejad said in a message carried by the official IRNA news agency.
"I hope you make the most of the chance of service and leave a good name by preferring people's real interests and justice to the insatiable demands of a selfish and indecent minority," he said.
"You are generally expected to make a fast and clear response to the demands for basic... change in US domestic and foreign policy, which all people in the world and Americans want on top of your agenda," he told Obama.
Iran and the United States have not had diplomatic relations since Islamist students took American diplomats hostage for 444 days following the 1979 Islamic revolution which toppled the US-backed shah.
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