NEW YORK (CBSDC/AP) — President Barack Obama believes a nuclear weapons agreement could be reached with Iran.
Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday morning, Obama told world leaders that diplomatic efforts will begin with Iran over its nuclear program, with talks being led by Secretary of State John Kerry.
“I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested,” Obama stated.
The United States has not had diplomatic relations with Iran in more than 30 years.
Obama commended the “moderate course” new Iranian President Hasan Rouhani wants to take.
“We are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course,” Obama said.
Obama did warn, though, that “road blocks could prove too great” to reach an agreement with Iran.
“I don’t believe this difficult history can be overcome overnight,” Obama said.
Obama reiterated that the United States is “not seeking regime change” in Iran and that they are “determined to prevent them from developing a nuclear weapon.”
Obama also told leaders at the General Assembly that the U.S. would be willing to use military action in the Middle East to secure its interests.
“The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region,” Obama said, adding that they will dismantle any terrorist network that threatens the U.S.
U.S. officials say no meeting was planned between Obama and Rouhani, though they hadn’t ruled out the possibility that one might be added. The most likely opportunity appeared to be at a U.N. leaders’ lunch Tuesday.
Rouhani was scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly late Tuesday afternoon.
The U.S. and its allies long have suspected that Iran is trying to produce a nuclear weapon, though Tehran insists its nuclear activities are only for producing energy and for medical research.
American officials say Rouhani’s change in tone is driven by the Iranian public’s frustration with crippling economic sanctions levied by the U.S. But it is still unclear whether Iran is willing to take the steps the U.S. is seeking in order to ease the sanctions, including curbing uranium enrichment and shutting down the Fordo underground nuclear facility.
State Department officials said Kerry would seek to answer that question Thursday when new Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif joins nuclear talks between the U.S. and five other world powers. Zarif’s participation, which was announced Monday, sets up the first meeting in six years between an American secretary of state and an Iranian foreign minister, though it was unclear whether the two men would break off from the group and hold separate one-on-one talks.
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