Obama, Rouhani back resumption of Iran nuclear talks
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday. Obama opened the door to direct talks with Iran’s moderate new government, saying “the diplomatic path must be tested.” AP PHOTO
Hasan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Brendan McDermid, Pool)
President Obama and new Iranian President Hasan Rouhani both spoke up forcefully for a resumption of stalled nuclear negotiations yesterday at the U.N., but they gave no ground on the long-held positions that have scuttled previous attempts to break the tense impasse.
The leaders’ separate appearances at the United Nations General Assembly came amid heightened speculation about a thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations following the election of Rouhani, a more moderate-sounding cleric. In fact, officials from both countries had quietly negotiated the possibility of a brief meeting between Obama and Rouhani. But U.S. officials said the Iranians told them yesterday that an encounter would be “too complicated” given uncertainty about how it would be received in Tehran.
Instead, Obama and Rouhani traded hopeful yet unyielding messages during public addresses hours apart at the annual U.N. meetings.
Obama declared that it was worth pursuing diplomacy with Iran, even though skepticism persists about Tehran’s willingness to back up its recent overtures with concrete actions to answer strong concerns at the U.N. and in many nations that the Iranians are working to develop a nuclear bomb.
“The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested,” Obama said. He added that he while he was “encouraged” by Rouhani’s election, the new president’s “conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable.”
Rouhani, making his international debut, said Iran was ready to enter talks “without delay” and insisted his country was not interested in escalating tensions with the United States. He said Iran must retain the right to enrich uranium, but he vigorously denied that his country was seeking to build a nuclear weapon.