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September 13, 2013 10:05 am

Obama and Rouhani May Meet Even as Iran Nuclear Program Continues Unabated

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President Hassan Rouhani. Photo: Iranian government. U.S. President Barack Obama has corresponded with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani about arranging a face-to-face meeting at the U.N. General Assembly in New York later this month, the Los Angeles Times reported. The leaders’ potential meeting comes on the heels of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, announcing that Iran is continuing to increase its nuclear capacity.

Both the U.S. and the European Union expressed optimism at a meeting Wednesday that correspondence with Rouhani would eventually lead Iran to soften its stance on continuing to advance its nuclear program.

“We are hopeful that the Rouhani administration will live up to its assurances of transparency and cooperation by taking concrete steps over the next several months,” Joseph Macmanus, U.S. Ambassador to International Organizations in Vienna and to the IAEA, told a closed-door meeting, Reuters reported.

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But Macmanus added, “Should Iran continue its intransigence and obfuscation, we will work with fellow board members at the November board meeting to hold Iran appropriately accountable.” The IAEA’s latest report on the Iran nuclear program stated that the Islamic Republic is “continuing to install advanced and first-generation centrifuges.”

The talks would be the first between the U.S, and Iran since the severing of diplomatic ties in 1978.

Rouhani’s election was seen by the White House and others in the West as an opportunity to engage with Iran due to the perception of Rouhani as more moderate than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Yet Rouhani was recently quoted by Iranian Press TV as saying about Israel, “After all, in our region there has been a wound for years on the body of the Muslim world under the shadow of the occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the beloved al-Quds.”

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