"In his letter the president indicated that the US is ready to resolve the nuclear issue in a way that allows Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
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"The letter also conveyed the need to act with a sense of urgency to address this issue because, as we have long said, the window of opportunity for resolving this diplomatically is open, but it will not remain open indefinitely," Carney said.
The White House spokesman noted that Prime Minister Benjamin "Netanyahu said yesterday that the way to end the Iranian nuclear process was for Iran to stop enriching uranium, to ship out uranium that it has enriched... and to stop plutonium activity. The president yesterday said in his interview that the way for it to end would be for Iran not to weaponize its nuclear program.
"Any resolution would have to come through a verifiable compliance and a verifiable commitment by Iran to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions. That has long been our position. So, again, we're ready to talk in the P-5 plus one as well as bilaterally with Iran, if Iran is willing to engage substantively on this matter."
The White House comments are another sign of a potential thaw between the West and Iran on nuclear issues. The United States and its allies have imposed sanctions aimed at stopping Iran from seeking a nuclear weapons capability, but Iran has long insisted its program is for civilian purposes.
Rohani told NBC News on Wednesday that his administration will never develop nuclear weapons and that he has full authority to make a deal with the West on the disputed atomic program. According NBC, the Iranian president noted he had received a "positive and constructive" letter from Obama congratulating him on his election.
"It could be subtle and tiny steps for a very important future," NBC quoted Rohani as saying.
Since Rohani was elected as president in June, he has called for "constructive interaction" with the world. The head of Iran's nuclear energy organization said on Wednesday he saw "openings" on the nuclear issue.
Shaul Chorev, head of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission said Wednesday: "The picture that the Iranian representatives are portraying regarding openness and transparency of their nuclear program ... stands in sharp contradiction with Iran's actual actions and the facts on the ground."
The issue was not whether Iran has "modified its diplomatic vocabulary ... but whether it is addressing seriously and in a timely manner outstanding issues that have remained unresolved for too long," Chorev told the annual meeting of member states of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Chorev accused Iran of "deception and concealment, creating a false impression about the status of its engagement with the agency ... with a view to buy more time in Iran's daily inching forward in every aspect of its nuclear military program".
Chorev accused Arab states of using the IAEA meeting to "repeatedly bash" Israel and he urged members to reject an Arab-sponsored draft resolution calling on Israel to join a global anti-nuclear weapons pact.
Obama said on Tuesday that he is willing to test the willingness of Rohani to discuss the nuclear issue.
"There is an opportunity here for diplomacy," Obama told Spanish-language network Telemundo in an interview. "And I hope the Iranians take advantage of it."
Both Obama and Rohani plan to be in New York next week for the UN General Assembly, but the leaders do not currently have plans to meet, Carney said.
Yitzhak Benhorin contributed to this report
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