(WASHINGTON) — President Obama says he is prepared to “test” whether Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, is sincere about an apparent desire to rebuild diplomatic ties with the U.S.
“There are indications that Rouhani…is somebody who is looking to open dialogue with the West and with the United States in a way that we haven’t seen in the past. And so we should test it,” Obama said in an interview with Telemundo.
Obama first confirmed publicly during an interview on ABC’s This Week Sunday that he has exchanged letters with Rouhani and remains hopeful the two can “strike a deal” over Tehran’s contested nuclear program.
He told Telemundo that the content of the letter indicated “the U.S.’s interest in resolving this nuclear issue in a way that would allow Iran to rejoin the international community.”
“But it’s [Iran’s] going to have to show the international community that it’s not trying to weaponize nuclear power,” Obama added.
Obama and Rouhani will both be in New York City next week to attend the United Nations General Assembly. There has not been a direct meeting between an American president and Iranian leader in more than three decades.
White House officials say there are currently no plans for the two to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. meeting, but have not ruled it out.
“What if they meet in the hall? I’m not going to anticipate a hypothetical like that,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. Asked whether Obama would “duck into another hall” to avoid an encounter with Rouhani, Carney said, “I doubt it.”
“We hope that this new Iranian government will engage substantively in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan. “We remain ready to engage with the Rouhani government on the basis of mutual respect to achieve a peaceful resolution to the nuclear issue.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN