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September 24, 2013 12:33 pm

Obama Tells UN That Secretary of State Kerry Will Open Direct Talks With Iran

avatar by Zach Pontz

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Natanz Nuclear Facility in Iran. Photo: Hamed Saber.

U.S. President Barack Obama told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that aside from the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Iranian nuclear issue is atop the U.S. agenda and that he will authorize Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue negotiations with Iran through direct talks.

“Since I took office, I have made it clear – in letters to the Supreme Leader in Iran and more recently to President Rouhani – that America prefers to resolve our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program peacefully, but that we are determined to prevent them from developing a nuclear weapon,” he told the body. “We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people, while giving the world confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful. To succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable.”

Obama said that he recognizes that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has sounded a conciliatory note since taking office in August.  Rouhani has repeatedly said that he wants to reach a peaceful agreement with the West that would pacify their concerns and ease sanctions on the Islamic Republic, and the U.S. president said he would test that course.

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“We are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course. Given President Rouhani’s stated commitment to reach an agreement, I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government,” Obama said, while also remaining practical in his efforts. “The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested.”

Click here to read about Obama on Israel.

Click here to read about Obama on Syria.

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