Obama offers diplomatic opening to Iran

US president was guardedly optimistic about a diplomatic solution

US president Barack Obama has opened the diplomatic door to Iran but warned America’s long-time adversary that the country’s new president must be serious about abandoning plans to build a nuclear weapon. Photograph: Reuters

US president Barack Obama has opened the diplomatic door to Iran but warned America’s long-time adversary that the country’s new president must be serious about abandoning plans to build a nuclear weapon. Photograph: Reuters

Wed, Sep 25, 2013, 07:00


US president Barack Obama has opened the diplomatic door to Iran but warned America’s long-time adversary that the country’s new president must be serious about abandoning plans to build a nuclear weapon.

Speaking to the United Nations general assembly, Mr Obama was guardedly optimistic about a diplomatic solution following recent overtures from Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. He urged Mr Rouhani to take concrete steps to end the long-running disagreement with the US and her allies over its nuclear programme.

“Conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable,” the US president told the annual gathering of world leaders in New York.

Mr Obama said he had instructed US secretary of state John Kerry to pursue face-to-face negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme, expanding America’s diplomatic efforts beyond the Syrian conflict.

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

Speculation was rife that there might have been a meeting or symbolic handshake between the US and Iranian presidents on the sidelines of the UN annual meeting in what would have been the first encounter between the country’s leaders since the shah of Iran, an ally of the United States, was toppled in a 1979 revolution.


‘Encounter’
White House officials said that while the US had offered the Iranians an “encounter” with Mr Obama, the Iranian delegation declined the invitation, saying that it was “too complicated for Iranians at his point”.

Speaking to the General Assembly last night Rouhani said that nuclear weapons “have no place in Iran’s security and defense doctrine,” saying it contradicts their religious convictions. He also criticised international sanctions against Iran.

Meanwhile, Mr Obama urged the UN security council to pass a “strong” resolution warning Syria of consequences if the Assad regime failed to surrender its chemical weapons.

The US president announced a further $340 million in humanitarian aid to help refugees from Syria’s 2½-year civil war. Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, who arrived in New York yesterday for the UN general assembly, announced that Ireland would contribute €200,000 to assist in the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.