White House denies Obama plans Iran trip
Washington dismisses Kuwaiti report that US president awaits approval from Tehran to visit Islamic Republic, meet Khamenei
Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel.
The White House on Monday denied a Kuwaiti newspaper report which claimed that US President Barack Obama wants to visit Iran in 2014 and is awaiting an invitation from Tehran.
“The report is false,” a White House press secretary told The Times of Israel over the phone. “The president is not making any plans to go to Iran.”
Earlier on Monday, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida quoted an unnamed US diplomat saying that Obama “is seeking to visit Tehran in the middle of next year,” and that the desire to host the president in the Iranian capital was mutual.
According to the report, the diplomat said “the most important detail that is outstanding regarding the meeting is the question of a meeting with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the possibility of not holding the meeting.”
The US terminated its official relations with Iran in April, 1980 after a mob broke into the US Embassy in Tehran and took 52 American diplomats hostage. The US government levied economic sanctions against Iran starting in 1995.
Obama communicated with Rouhani in a series of missives over the summer, sparking speculation that the two might meet face-to-face while they both attended meetings at the United Nations in September. When that meeting failed to transpire, the White House made clear that it was Rouhani, not Obama, who balked at the last minute.
Days later, Obama and Rouhani spoke by phone, a historic call that marked the first direct conversation between a US and Iranian leader in more than 30 years. There have since been several lower-level meetings between American and Iranian officials.
The US and Iran have also been engaged in secretive back-channel contacts, which helped pave the way to last week’s Geneva interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program.
AP contributed to this report