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Iran welcomes US offer to lift sanctions

Iran and US refuse to rule out Obama-Rouhani meeting at UN

Gulf News

Dubai: A letter from US President Barack Obama to his Iranian counterpart offering to lift sanctions if it ends uncertainties over its nuclear programme, has been welcomed by top officials in Tehran, a political analyst close to the Iranian leadership told Bloomberg.

“Obama asked for the removal of ambiguities and said sanctions can be lifted as a result,” Amir Mohebian, who has advised former Iranian presidents and has close relations to President Hassan Rouhani’s government, said. Obama said “he’s keen for negotiations to be held to resolve the nuclear issue.”

He said there was no specific mention of what measures may be lifted by the US administration in return for Iranian clarifications regarding its nuclear intentions.

On Thursday, Rouhani announced Tehran’s “readiness” to facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition.

Writing in The Washington Post, he said he wanted to pursue a policy of “constructive engagement”.

“We must join hands to constructively work toward national dialogue, whether in Syria or Bahrain. We must create an atmosphere where peoples of the region can decide their own fates,” he wrote.

Speaking on NBC television, the Iranian leader also refused to rule out what would be a historic first meeting with Obama, saying “anything is possible”.

Rouhani has separately asked to meet with French President Francois Hollande, on the sidelines of next week’s UN General Assembly meeting.

Hollande said that Rouhani wanted to discuss the situation in Syria.

The meeting would be the first of its kind between heads of state from the two countries in years, diplomats travelling with Hollande told reporters.

The White House, too, hinted on Thursday about a possible meeting between Obama and the Rouhani when the two leaders are at the UN in New York next week.

Jay Carney, White House spokesman, said that there had been “welcome rhetoric” from the government of Rouhani, who was elected in June, but added that “we need to see follow-through”.

Asked about the possibility of a direct meeting between the two leaders, he said that nothing was scheduled but that “it’s possible, but it has always been possible.” He added: “The extended hand has been there from the moment the president was sworn in.”

Speaking a week ahead of a visit to the UN in New York, Rouhani said in an interview with a US television channel on Wednesday that an exchange of letters between him and Obama had been “positive and constructive”.

Obama acknowledged at the weekend that the two leaders had exchanged letters, a rare exercise in back-channel diplomacy between the US and Iran. In Wednesday’s interview, Rouhani said that the letters “could be subtle and tiny steps for a very important future”.

Senior US officials are expected to meet Iranian counterparts when Rouhani visits New York next week, a series of engagements that the Obama administration has said will allow it to test the seriousness of members of the new Iranian government.