US offers a nuclear olive branch to Iranians
President Barack Obama extended an olive branch to Iran yesterday, telling the United Nations that he now saw the basis for a "meaningful agreement" to solve the decade-long stand-off over Tehran's nuclear programme.
Responding to the overtures of Iran's newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, Mr Obama used his annual address to the General Assembly to say that a deal was waiting to be done and that the US would pursue negotiations with Tehran.
"These statements made by our respective governments should offer the basis for a meaningful agreement," he said. "We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people while giving the world confidence that the Iranian (nuclear) programme is peaceful."
Pointing to Iran's promise that it did not seek nuclear weapons, Mr Obama said that – on paper – the principles for a deal were in place.
"The Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has just recently reiterated that the Islamic Republic will never develop a nuclear weapon," he said.
Mr Obama repeated America's clear determination that Iran should not be allowed to develop the Bomb – and the absolute need to verify compliance with any deal. But he went out of his way to acknowledge and allay Tehran's fears about US intentions.
"We are not seeking regime change, and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy," said Mr Obama. (© Daily Telegraph, London)