Iran is ready to engage in high-level talks with long-time foe the United States on the nuclear issue, foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in comments published Thursday by Iran's official news agency IRNA.
"A meeting is not an end in itself, nor is it ruled out...
President (Hassan) Rowhani has no problem in principle" with meeting US President Barack Obama, he said.
"It would have been a good beginning," Zarif added of speculation that such a meeting was to take place this week in New York, but in the end never did.
"President Rouhani has always said he is prepared to do whatever is in the national interest," the minister added.
Washington and Tehran have had no diplomatic relations since 1980, a year after the Islamic revolution in Iran toppled the US-backed shah.
Zarif said of the mooted Rouhani-Obama encounter that "the American government expressed its wish, on the eve of the UN General Assembly, for such a meeting" but "there was not enough time to arrange it".
"The meeting was not that important... we are not there for show but to defend the national interests of our nation," he added.
Obama "made more moderate comments than in the past", Zarif said.
"If that is the basis of a new political will to solve misunderstandings and ease Iranian concerns, this would be more important than a meeting.
"We will see during the ministerial meeting with the 5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) what the US secretary of state's approach will be.
The United States and Iran will later Thursday have one of their highest-level meetings since the 1979 revolution as Zarif and John Kerry join talks on the Iranian nuclear issue.
"We will see if he has the will to search for a solution to the Iranian nuclear question that is in the interests of the world, peace and security and also respect for the rights of the Iranian nation."
And while officials are saying that no bilateral talks are planned, there remains the chance for a quick tete-a-tete in the corridor.
Zarif wrote on his Twitter account from New York on Wednesday: "We have a historic opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue" if world powers adjust to the "new Iranian approach".
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