Iran: in from the cold? Rouhani 'will meet Obama'
Moderate could become first Iranian president to meet US leader with 'corridor encounter'
HASSAN ROUHANI, elected in June after pledging to repair relations with Western nations, could soon become the first president of Iran to meet a US leader, with a planned encounter with Barack Obama in a corridor.
The Guardian reports that an exchange of letters between the political moderate and Obama may lead to a face-to-face meeting at the UN next week while William Hague, the UK's Foreign Secretary, talks to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.
The Foreign Office said it had been taken by surprise by an English-language tweet on Rouhani's feed saying: "Tehran has responded positively to UK's request. President Rouhani's meeting w/WilliamJHague on the sidelines of UNGA [the United Nations General Assembly] has been confirmed."
UK diplomats said they had not asked for any meeting - but would be happy to have one, though they had had nothing formal from Tehran about it. The UK has not had full diplomatic relations with Iran since its embassy in Tehran was stormed in 2011.
Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council, told the newspaper that if the meeting between Obama and Rouhani went ahead at next week's UN General Assembly it would be likely to be a staged 'chance' encounter in a corridor, rather than a sit-down talk, "to give both sides deniability".
Parsi said Rouhani was keen to show that his moderate approach was a success. He said: "Tehran is already claiming some of the credit for the Syria deal. Rouhani needs to show that through his diplomatic efforts he has already avoided a war.
"He is desperate in his first six months to show his approach has paid more dividends than the hardline approach of his predecessor." A meeting with Obama would be seen as a concrete result.
Speaking on US television on Sunday, Obama confirmed that the two leaders have written to each other. He raised the possibility of Iran being involved in talks on the future of Syria but urged the middle-eastern nation's leadership not to interpret his pulling back
from air strikes on Syria as a weakening of his resolve to stop other nations developing nuclear weapons. ·