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September 24, 2013

Obama to address Iran, Syria in UN speech

NEW YORK —

NEW YORK (AP) — Seeking to build on diplomatic opportunities, President Barack Obama is expected to signal his willingness to engage with the new Iranian government if Tehran makes nuclear concessions long sought by the U.S. and Western allies.

Obama, in a planned address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning, also will call on U.N. Security Council members to approve a resolution that would mandate consequences for Syria if it fails to cooperate with a plan to turn its chemical weapons stockpiles over to the international community.

The president's address will be closely watched for signs that he may meet later in the day with Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, a moderate cleric who has been making friendly gestures toward the U.S. in recent weeks. Even a brief encounter would be significant given that the leaders of the U.S. and Iran haven't had face-to-face contact in more than 30 years.

U.S. officials say no meeting was planned, though they hadn't ruled out the possibility that one might be added. The most likely opportunity appeared to be at a U.N. leaders' lunch Tuesday.

Rouhani was scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly late Tuesday afternoon.

The possibility of a thaw in relations with Iran was expected to factor heavily in Obama's address to the U.N. In a preview of the president's speech, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Obama would discuss "our openness to diplomacy and the prospect for a peaceful resolution of this issue that allows Iran to rejoin the community of nations should they come in line with their international obligations and demonstrate that their nuclear program is peaceful."

The U.S. and its allies long have suspected that Iran is trying to produce a nuclear weapon, though Tehran insists its nuclear activities are only for producing energy and for medical research.

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