Obama has struck positive note on Iran: Rouhani

IranUN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with Iran President Hassan Rouhani Thursday at United Nations. AP

Iran's new president Friday said President Barack Obama struck a new tone in his UN speech this week that left him optimistic about easing tensions between the two countries.

Hassan Rouhani also said the recent elections that propelled him to the Iranian presidency created a "new environment" which could pave the way for better relations with the West.

Rouhani at a news conference in New York said Iran would put forth a proposal at talks next month in Geneva on resolving the standoff over his country's nuclear programme and easing international sanctions, and that he was encouraged by what he has heard recently from Western officials.

"In speaking with senior European officials and also hearing Obama... it seemed that they sounded different compared to the past, and I view that as a positive step to the resettlement of the differences between the Islamic Republic between the Republic of Iran and the West," Rouhani said.

He said he did not meet with Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week because "both sides were convinced that the timetable was too short to plan a meeting of two presidents" and at the same time "ensure that its conclusion would be solid".

Iran watchers say Rouhani may have limited time — possibly a year or less — to reach a settlement on the nuclear issue before Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei decides negotiations are fruitless.

In an apparent reference to resistance among hardliners back home, Rouhani noted that "after 35 years of great tensions between Iran and the United States and a very number of issues that persist ... a meeting of the presidents for the first time will naturally come with complications of its own".

But he said Iran emerged hopeful from a lower-level meeting with the US and its international partners aimed at restarting talks to settle their nuclear standoff.

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