Obama Exchanges Letters with Iranian President

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President Barack Obama sent new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani a letter of congratulations following his election in June, a spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday.

The world leaders exchanged letters in a sign of easing tensions over Iran’s nuclear program. The new centrist president has distanced himself from his often hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and assumed a more conciliatory tone with the West, proposing “constructive interaction.”

The U.S. and Iran cut diplomatic relations in 1980 after students and Islamic militants stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took Americans hostage. But the nations’ leaders have at times stayed in touch, according to Reuters. Ahmadinejad wrote a letter to Obama three years ago, and the U.S. President has addressed Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly twice since 2009.

Obama, who said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he had exchanged letters with the Iranian president, will speak at the United Nations General Assembly next week on the same day that Rouhani speaks, but they don’t have plans to meet, Reuters says.