President Obama announced Tuesday that he's directed Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue a new round of talks with Iran over its nuclear program, amid warnings from US lawmakers to view the promises of Iran's new president with caution.
The president made the announcement in his address before the annual gathering of the UN General Assembly.
"The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested," Obama said.
Obama acknowledged that Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, who plans to address the body Tuesday afternoon in New York, has signaled interest in charting a more "moderate" course and disavowed interest in pursuing the development of a nuclear weapon.
Saying the "conciliatory words" must be met by "actions," Obama said Kerry will "pursue this effort" to engage Iran, alongside representatives from the European Union and other global powers.
"We are determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon," Obama said. He said the suspicion between the two countries can't be overcome overnight, but resolving the nuclear issue would be a "major step down a long road" toward a better relationship.
On the sidelines of the UN session, Kerry is expected to meet with his Iranian counterpart on Thursday, along with other diplomats. The meeting would mark the highest-level talks between the US and Iran in decades.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, though, have urged Obama to keep the pressure of sanctions on Iran and stand firm by the vow to prevent the country from developing a nuclear weapon. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and several other senators penned a letter to Obama on Tuesday casting doubts on the intentions of Iran's new leader.
"Despite the hopes that many have had that Mr. (Rowhani) would dramatically improve Iran's abysmal human rights situation, Iranians still are being denied their fundamental freedoms of assembly, the press, and conscience," they wrote. On the nuclear issue, they said: "Despite sanctions and international pressure and the arrival of Mr. (Rowhani), Iran has not changed course and is close to obtaining this capability that will likely result in a cascade of nuclear proliferation in one of the world's most volatile regions."
They voiced concern that a deal with Iran might leave open the door to preserve part of its weapons program and access to the entire nuclear fuel cycle.
"Iran must not be allowed to retain any enrichment or reprocessing capabilities," they wrote. "Now is the time to increase pressure on Iran and to stand with the Iranian people, not pursue diplomatic half-measures that will allow their rulers to continue to delay and obfuscate and avoid real reforms."
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 09/24/2013
Editor's Note: One would hope that those in the Obama Administration tasked with knowing all about Rowhani have done their due diligence...Of course, that can not be assumed or taken for granted...
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