The UN's chief nuclear inspector applauded Barack Obama for extending an olive branch to Iran, calling the US president's offer of diplomacy an important gesture toward resolving Iran's dispute with the West over its nuclear program. "Obama is talking about direct negotiation without preconditions based on mutual respect, and he's extended his hand to the Iranian people," International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Tuesday in Ecuador. "I hope it's reciprocated by the Iranian people." Obama last week signaled a willingness to speak directly with Iran about the nuclear dispute, promising an "engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect" in a video message marking Nowruz, the Persian New Year. "This is very important," ElBaradei said in Quito, where he discussed nuclear energy issues with Vice President Lenin Moreno. "This situation must be resolved."