Obama to address Iran, Syria in General Assembly speech

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) hosts a civil society roundtable meeting with heads of state and representatives of civil society, multilateral organizations and private foundations in New York September 23, 2013. Reuters
US President Barack Obama is expected to build on diplomatic opportunities and signal his willingness to engage with the new Iranian Government if Tehran makes nuclear concessions long sought by the US and Western allies.
Obama, in a planned address to the United Nations General Assembly today, also will call on UN Security Council members to approve a resolution that would mandate consequences for Syria if it fails to cooperate with a plan to turn its chemical weapons stockpiles over to the international community.
His speech is also expected to touch on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Obama will be speaking to world leaders hours before Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who urged Western leaders on Monday to engage Iran and ease painful economic sanctions against his country.
Those sanctions stem from concerns that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and its repeated refusal to heed U.N. demands to suspend its uranium enrichment program. Iran insists its nuclear program is solely for peaceful, civilian purposes.
A group of top U.S. senators called on Obama to reiterate in his speech that the U.S. will not accept a nuclear-capable Iran and that the sanctions will continue despite Rouhani\’s overtures.
U.S. officials say that at this time there is no meeting scheduled between Obama and Rouhani while they are both in New York, but they have not ruled out the possibility. U.S. and Iranian government heads have not met since before the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah.
Iran\’s nuclear program will remain in focus later this week, when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will take part in the talks, which are scheduled for Thursday.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has served as the lead negotiator in talks with Iran, said she had a "constructive discussion" with Zarif and the foreign ministers of Britain and France ahead of the General Assembly session.
Iran\’s Fars news agency reported the moderate Zarif will lead nuclear talks with world powers, succeeding the conservative Saeed Jalili, who oversaw a hardening of Tehran\’s position.
Source: Agencies
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