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White House: U.S. ready for Iran talks based on ‘mutual respect’

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The United States is ready to engage in talks with Iran based on mutual respect over its disputed nuclear program, as long as Tehran demonstrates that its program is for civilian purposes, the White House said on Friday.

“We have had a number of engagements with the Iranians and we'll continue to have conversations on the basis of mutual respect,” Reuters news agency quoted Josh Earnest, the deputy White House spokesman, as saying.

“And over the course of those conversations there will be an opportunity for the Iranians to demonstrate through actions the seriousness with which they are pursuing this endeavor,” Earnest said.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rowhani will both be in New York next week to attend the United Nations’ General Assembly. The White House has said that an encounter between the two leaders is possible, although there was no meeting scheduled, the spokesman said.

Western powers believe Iran is developing nuclear weapons, although Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at power generation.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes has said Washington believes there is time to pursue diplomacy with Iran, Reuters reported.

“We've always made clear that there's not an open-ended window for diplomacy, that we need to be moving forward with a sense of urgency,” Rhodes said.

“We do believe ... that Iran has not taken steps, for instance, to break out and weaponize its nuclear program. So even as we move with a sense of urgency here, we do believe that there's time and space to pursue diplomacy.”

On Friday, Rowhani wrote in a column published by the Washington Post that the Islamic Republic is committed to helping overcome its common challenges with the West through dialogue.

Early this week, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for "heroic leniency" with the West.

(With Reuters)