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Obama open to meeting new Iranian leader next week

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By Reuters
Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 9:15 p.m.
 

The White House said on Thursday that President Obama may meet with his Iranian counterpart in New York next week but called for “action” rather than words from Hassan Rouhani, who has sent signals he's seeking a thaw in relations with the United States.

Obama and Rouhani will be in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly, and speculation has grown that the two leaders might have a tete-a-tete.

White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged a change in tone between Iran and the West since Rouhani took office and said a meeting was possible, though not scheduled.

“It's possible, but it has always been possible,” he said. “The extended hand has been there from the moment the president was sworn into office.”

Western powers believe Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Tehran claims its program is peaceful.

Israel said that Rouhani's assurance that Tehran would not pursue nuclear weapons was false.

“One must not be fooled by the Iranian president's fraudulent words,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.

Rouhani, who took office in August, said in a television interview that his country would never develop nuclear weapons and that he had “complete authority” to negotiate a nuclear deal with the United States and its allies.

In the second part of the interview with NBC News, which aired on Thursday, he criticized Israel.

Rouhani said Israel was “an occupier, a usurper government that does injustice to the people of the region.” The Iranian claimed it “has brought instability to the region with its war-mongering policies.”

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