Obama-Rouhani meeting 'too complicated' for Iran: US

Obama-Rouhani meeting 'too complicated' for Iran: US

UNITED NATIONS - Agence France-Presse / Reuters
Obama-Rouhani meeting too complicated for Iran: US

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani shakes hands with French President Francois Hollande during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, Sept. 24. AP photo

The United States offered to set up "an encounter" between President Barack Obama and his new Iranian counterpart during a U.N. summit but it proved "too complicated" for the Iranians, a U.S. official said Sept. 24.

Confirming that Obama would not meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York, the official said the Iranians informed the U.S. Sept. 24 that they could not arrange it.

"We have said publicly and we also said privately to the Iranians, that we're open to having discussions on the margins of UNGA -- informal discussions not a bilateral meeting. That proved to be too complicated for the Iranians to do at this point," a senior administration official said.

Obama and Rouhani have exchanged letters since the latter, seen as more moderate than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, came to office in August.

U.S. officials have welcomed initial signs that the new Iranian government may be prepared to open up and make progress on reining in the country's suspect nuclear program.

But the Americans have also cautioned that Iran must prove it is serious about taking such steps.

Meeting with French president

Meanwhile, Rouhani met with the French President François Hollande later on Sept. 24.

The two leaders smiled for the cameras and shook hands before entering closed-door talks at France's United Nations mission.

"The question at hand is to know if these words can translate into actions, especially on the nuclear issue," Hollande said at the General Assembly.

"For the past 10 years talks haven't gone anywhere," he added.

France, unlike the United States, has diplomatic relations with Iran, although it has also pressed Tehran over its nuclear program.

"I accepted dialogue with President Rouhani as he himself has shown an openness," Hollande said at a news conference.

The French president said he also hoped to talk to Rouhani about Syria, whose embattled president Bashar al-Assad counts Iran as a top ally.

Hollande reiterated that he did not oppose Rowhani's presence at a future Geneva peace conference on Syria, but said that the focus had to be on transition from the al-Assad regime.

"If Iran wants to participate in Geneva Two, it has to be with a goal of transition," Hollande said.