Obama set for first meeting with Iran leader
The presidents of the United States and Iran could hold their first meeting today since diplomatic relations were severed 33 years ago, as part of an Iranian diplomatic offensive designed to bring the impasse over Tehran's nuclear programme to an end.
Both Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani, a comparative moderate elected in June, will address the UN General Assembly with speeches expected to strike a markedly different tone to the often angry rhetoric that has accompanied eight years of stalled nuclear talks, Western sanctions and speculation about US air strikes.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, is scheduled to meet his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in what would be the first meeting at foreign minister level between the two countries since 2000.
William Hague, British Foreign Secretary, held talks with Mr Zarif last night, to discuss his country's nuclear ambitions, which the West insists are directed at building an atomic bomb. The talks could pave the way to a re-opening of the British embassy in Tehran, ransacked by an officially sanctioned mob in 2011.
The mechanism for bringing together Mr Obama and Mr Rouhani is a low-key lunch invitation from Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general. Given the years of mutual enmity that followed Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979 and the taking of US hostages that followed, a last-minute hitch could not be precluded.
But the tone from both sides suggested the meeting was more likely to happen than not, even if the staging might be muted. Other leaders would attend the lunch and camera access may be limited.
Ben Rhodes, a deputy US national security adviser, said that while Mr Obama was not scheduled to meet Mr Rouhani, it could not be ruled out. (©Daily Telegraph, London)