Obama is ready for Iran talks

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Obama is ready for Iran talks

President Barack Obama said on Tuesday the United States was ready to engage diplomatically with Iran in what could be a historic opening between the long-time foes but put the onus on the new Iranian president to prove he is serious about pursuing a nuclear deal.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Tue 24 Sep 2013, 11:53 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 4:45 PM

Addressing an annual summit of world leaders at the United Nations, Obama said he wanted to put President Hassan Rohani’s overtures to the test and challenged him to take concrete steps towards resolving Iran’s long-running nuclear dispute with the West. “Conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable,” Obama told the United Nations General Assembly.
Rohani’s recent overtures, including agreement to hold new talks on its nuclear programme, have raised international hopes for a thaw in relations between Washington and Tehran after more than three decades of estrangement.

The White House has left open the possibility that Obama and Rohani could meet — at least for a handshake on the UN sidelines — later on Tuesday. Even a fleeting encounter would be symbolically important given that it would be the first face-to-face contact between US and Iranian heads of government since before the 1979 Islamic revolution that ousted the US-backed Shah. But differences over Iran’s nuclear programme and scepticism about Rohani’s intentions, especially from US lawmakers and close US ally Israel, have cast doubt on the prospect for any immediate breakthrough between Washington and Tehran.

Seeking to keep expectations under control, Obama said suspicions between the two countries were too great to believe their troubled history can be overcome overnight.

“The roadblocks may prove to be too great but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested,” Obama said.

Obama added that in Rohani’s recent statements there should be the basis for an elusive deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but he reaffirmed his position that Tehran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon.

Obama cited resolving the Iranian nuclear standoff and reaching an Palestinian-Israeli peace deal as his two main policy priorities in the Middle East, efforts that he said he believes can help bring stability to the volatile region.

He also urged the UN Security Council to approve a strong resolution aimed at ensuring Syria keeps its commitments to give up its chemical weapons, and said the United States will provide an additional $340 million in humanitarian aid.

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