Obama 'Must Restore Iran Ties'

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama will have to normalize relations with Iran to reach an agreement over its disputed nuclear program, a senior Foreign Ministry official said.

Russian officials are in contact with the incoming Obama administration to urge it to engage Iran diplomatically, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg Television.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Iran after Islamic students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 Americans for 444 days. Obama has pledged to pursue "direct diplomacy without preconditions" with Iran, which the current Republican administration refused to do.

"We definitely favor dialogue and political effort," Ryabkov said. "Sanctions are counterproductive."

Asked if Obama would have to normalize ties with Iran to reach an agreement over the nuclear dispute, he replied, "Yes, absolutely."