Obama secretly requested Rouhani meeting — report
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Obama secretly requested Rouhani meeting — report

According to Iranian media, US president sent two letters in March to Tehran’s leaders seeking discussions on regional issues

US President Barack Obama gestures during a press conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 21, 2016. (AP/Hasan Jamali)
US President Barack Obama gestures during a press conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 21, 2016. (AP/Hasan Jamali)

US President Barack Obama has recently made personal overtures to Iran’s supreme leader and president, requesting a meeting with the latter, according to an Iranian media report.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) cited an April 19 item by Iranian website Sahamnews.org, which is affiliated with Iran’s Green Movement, that claims Obama sent two secret letters in March to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.

In the letters, the website reported, Obama wrote that Iran has a narrow window of opportunity to work with the US on the crises in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, and pledged that he would attend any conference on these issues should Rouhani agree to a meeting.

Sahamnews also reported that the two Iranian leaders discussed Obama’s request and agreed that Rouhani should accept, on the grounds that such a meeting could help end the turmoil in these countries, while increasing Iran’s power and influence in the Middle East.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press-conference in the capital Tehran, February 27, 2016. (AFP/ATTA KENARE)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press-conference in the capital Tehran, February 27, 2016. (AFP/ATTA KENARE)

Furthermore, Sahamnews reported, while Khamenei is aggressively anti-US in his public declarations, behind closed doors he strikes a different tone. And while he has publicly decried many aspects of the recent nuclear deal Iran struck with world powers that ended years of sanctions, his more pragmatic associates have held open talks with American officials on bolstering Iran’s gains from the agreement.

On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry met to discuss ways of ensuring Tehran benefits from the nuclear deal it signed last year.

Kerry met Zarif on the sidelines of a United Nations conference as the agreement came under sustained attack from critics in both countries.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivering a speech, June 4, 2007. (AFP/ATTA KENARE)
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivering a speech, June 4, 2007. (AFP/ATTA KENARE)

Hardliners in Tehran argue that Rouhani has been tricked into surrendering control of Iran’s nuclear program without getting much in return.

And in Washington, Obama’s critics claim he plans to allow an unreformed Iran access to US finance despite separate sanctions remaining in place.

Meanwhile, the State Department said Friday the United States will buy 32 tons of heavy water from Iran.

“This transaction provides US industry with a critical product, while also enabling Iran to sell some of its excess heavy water,” spokesman John Kirby said.

Kirby said the purchase came after Iran met its obligations under the nuclear accord implementation process, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.

“Our purchase of the heavy water means that it will instead be used for critically important research and non-nuclear industrial requirements,” he said.

“Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA meant that this material had already been removed from Iran, ensuring it would not be used to support the development of a nuclear weapon.”

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