NEW YORK —
American officials say Rouhani's change in tone is driven by the Iranian public's frustration with crippling economic sanctions levied by the U.S. But it is still unclear whether Iran is willing to take the steps the U.S. is seeking in order to ease the sanctions, including curbing uranium enrichment and shutting down the Fordo underground nuclear facility.
State Department officials said Secretary of State John Kerry would seek to answer that question Thursday when new Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif joins nuclear talks between the U.S. and five other world powers. Zarif's participation, which was announced Monday, sets up the first meeting in six years between an American secretary of state and an Iranian foreign minister, though it was unclear whether the two men would break off from the group and hold separate one-on-one talks.
Also high on Obama's agenda at the U.N. was rallying Security Council support for a resolution that would establish consequences for Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime if it failed to adhere to a U.S-Russian plan to turn over its chemical weapons.
Under the agreement, inspectors are to be in Syria by November and all components of the chemical weapons program are to be removed from the country or destroyed by the middle of next year. The U.S. wants the Security Council to approve a resolution making the U.S.-Russian agreement legally binding in a way that is verifiable and enforceable.
But a key obstacle remains, given U.S. and Russian disagreement over whether to put the resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter. Chapter 7 deals with threats to international peace and security and has provisions for enforcement by military or nonmilitary means, such as sanctions. Russia is sure to veto any resolution that includes a mandate for military action.
Rhodes said Obama also would address tenuous progress on a new round of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. And he was to address other developments in the Arab world, including in Egypt, where the nation's first democratically elected president was ousted this summer in a military coup