Obama to address Iran, Syria in General Assembly speech

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U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to address overtures from Iran and steps to eliminate Syrian chemical weapons in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

The American president may signal his willingness to engage with the new Iranian government if Tehran makes nuclear concessions long sought by the U.S. and Western allies.

He is also expected to meet later in the day with Iranian President Hasan Rowhani, who has been gesturing his desire for friendly ties with the U.S. in recent weeks.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meanwhile will attend a meeting of major powers this week with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on his country’s nuclear program.

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, told reporters that while Obama had not arranged a meeting with Rowhani, it would not be ruled out.

“We are open to engagement with the Iranian government on a variety of levels provided that they will follow through on their commitment to address the international community's concern on their nuclear program,” said Rhodes, according to Agence France-Presse.

On Monday, Rowhani called for the West to engage in dialogue with Iran over its nuclear program, saying that sanctions against the country were “unacceptable” as he departed for New York to attend the U.N. meeting.

The trip marks Rowhani’s first visit to the U.N. assembly in his capacity as president, where he will deliver a speech that will be watched by Western governments who are looking for clues that his rhetoric of change and intentions to pursue a new diplomatic approach are genuine.
Obama, like most leaders, is to devote a lot of his speech to the 30-month-old Syrian war that has left well over 100,000 dead, according to the U.N.

The U.S. president was to renew warnings about Syria's chemical weapons while also giving his backing to U.N. efforts to broker a political end to the war, White House officials said, according to AFP.

(With AFP and AP)

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