President Barack Obama
is open to direct talks between Iran
and the United States but only if Tehran is serious about getting rid of its nuclear weapons program,
the White House said on Thursday.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that Iranian President Hassan Rohani
delivered some positive-sounding rhetoric in an NBC News interview
but "actions are more important than words."
When Obama first ran for president in 2008, he said he would hold direct negotiations with Iran under certain conditions. Carney said Obama still holds that position.
Obama, according to Carney, would be willing to have bilateral negotiations provided the Iranians were serious about addressing the international community's insistence that Tehran give up its nuclear weapons program.
|Rohani's interview with NBC|
"That is the position we hold today," Carney said.
Carney has deflected questions all week about whether the two leaders would meet during the UN gathering. On Thursday, he acknowledged a change in tone between Iran and the West since Rouhani took office and said a meeting was possible, though one was not scheduled.
"It's possible, but it has always been possible," Carney said. "The extended hand has been there from the moment the president was sworn in."
Israel said the interview was an Iranian attempt to deceive the world. "One must not be fooled by the Iranian president's fraudulent words," said a statement issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.
"The Iranians are spinning in the media so that the centrifuges can keep on spinning," it said, referring to Iranian uranium enrichment that Israel believes is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies this.
Rohani said his country has never sought and will never seek a nuclear bomb, telling NBC News in an interview that he has full authority to resolve a standoff with the West.
"We have never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb and we are not going to do so," Rohani said, according to an NBC translation of the interview. "We have time and again said that under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever."
Meanwhile, Iran's only Jewish lawmaker said he will be part of President Hassan Rohani's delegation to the United Nations.
Siamak Moreh Sedgh, who represents Iran's Jewish community in the country's parliament, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he will accompany Rohani on his visit to New York. Moreh Sedgh says he is just waiting for his US visa.
This represents the first time the Iranian president will be accompanied by a Jewish lawmaker to the UN The move is seen as fulfilling Rohani's promise to give a bigger role in governance to minorities in the country.
In the 1990s, Jewish lawmaker Morris Moatamed accompanied then-parliament speaker Mahdi Karroubi to New York.
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