Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wrote a secret correspondence to President Barack Obama in recent weeks, responding to the American leader’s letter to Tehran in October, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
Khamenei’s letter, which the White House declined comment upon, was “respectful,” but was noncommittal in responding to Obama’s suggestion of of US-Iranian cooperation in battling Islamic State forces in Iraq in Syria should the two sides reach a nuclear deal, the report said.
The report further stated that the covert missive to Obama was the second from Khamenei since the president took office in 2009.
The full contents of Khamenei’s letter to Obama this year, however, remained unclear.
News of the latest Tehran-Washington communique came as Iran and world powers were working toward a March 31 deadline to reach a political agreement on Iran’s controversial nuclear program. Iran claims it’s for peaceful purposes, but the US and Israel, among others, are worried the Islamic republic aims to develop nuclear weapons.
The five permanent UN Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany have undertaken years-long talks with Iran in a bid to halt the Islamic republic’s nuclear drive.
Amid the nuclear talks, Iran and the United States, which haven’t had formal diplomatic ties since 1980, started to thaw strained relations in the past year, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Several rounds of sanctions have been imposed on Iran, cutting deeply into the country’s economy.
Under an interim agreement reached in November 2013, Iran has diluted its stock of fissile materials from 20 percent enriched uranium to five percent in exchange for limited sanctions relief.
But two deadlines for a permanent agreement have already been missed, requiring the talks to be extended.
Obama met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House earlier in the week, and Obama said he saw no reason to further extend the current deadlines.
The present issue, Obama said, was “does Iran have the political will and the desire to get a deal done?”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was invited by US Speaker of the House John Boehner to speak before Congress about Iran’s nuclear program, was set to visit Washington next month, weeks before Knesset elections and an upcoming negotiations deadline.
AFP contributed to this report.