The Statement: Gov. Sarah Palin said at the October 2 vice presidential debate that Sen. Barack Obama "would be willing to meet with" Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "without preconditions being met first."
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The Facts: Palin stated an assertion made repeatedly by Republican running mate Sen. John McCain. Sen. Joe Biden said at the debate "it is simply not true" that Obama said he would "sit down" with Ahmadinejad.
Obama first addressed the issue in the July 23, 2007 CNN/YouTube debate, when candidates were asked if they would be "willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?" I would," Obama said. "And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them - which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration - is ridiculous."
He addressed the issue again in the debate on September 26, 2007, saying, "Ahmadinejad is not the most powerful person in Iran. He may not be the right person to talk to. But I reserve the right, as president of the United States to meet with anybody at a time and place of my choosing if I think it's going to keep America safe."
At the same time, Obama has been sharply critical of the Iranian president, saying he finds "many of his views odious and reprehensible. We detest his views of Israel and his denial of the Holocaust." The Obama-Biden Web site says that "Obama has consistently said he is willing to meet, without preconditions but with preparation, the leaders of Iran," adding that "this could include, but is not limited to, Ahmadinejad. (whose) status is uncertain as there will be Presidential elections in Iran in 2009."
Verdict: Misleading. Obama has said that he is willing to meet with Iranian leaders, and that such a meeting "could include" Ahmadinejad. However, he has also specified that he does not consider Ahmadinejad to be Iran's most important leader, and he has not said directly that he would be willing to meet with the current Iranian president.
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