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Russia sees chance to boost US ties

Obama's outreach to Iran lifts hopes that the US and Russia can find more common ground in their bids to get Iran to curtail its nuclear program.

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I'M LISTENING: In Tehran, Marzien Masaebi watched a video of President Obama's message to Iranians expressing hopes for improved ties between the US and Iran.

Vahid Salemi/AP

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President Obama says he wants a "new beginning" in US relations with Iran – and Moscow is listening intently.

Russia may be the US's indispensable partner in any fence-mending with Tehran. And Obama's three-minute video appeal to Iran Friday raises hopes here that Moscow and Washington may also be on the path to better ties.

"There is no doubt that Obama's expressed readiness to talk with Iran pushes away the threat of war, and is an extremely positive signal in the development of US ties with Russia," says Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the independent Institute of Middle Eastern Studies in Moscow.

Obama's message promises "engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect" and diplomacy "that addresses the full range of issues before us." But the outreach was greeted coolly by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, who said Saturday that there will be no shift in relations until the US shows "real changes" in its foreign policy.

Amid the ebb and flow of tensions over Iran in recent years, Moscow always insisted that it agrees with Washington over the desired outcome. Both countries find the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran unacceptable. But, at least until now, Moscow and Washington could not agree on a starting point, much less a road map for reaching these goals.

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