The United States offered to set up "an encounter" between President Barack Obama and his new Iranian counterpart during a UN summit but it proved "too complicated for the Iranians to do at this point", a US official said Tuesday.
Confirming that Obama would not meet with Iranian President Hassan Rohani in New York, the official said the Iranians informed the US Tuesday that they could not arrange it.
"We have said publicly and we also said privately to the Iranians, that we're open to having discussions on the margins of UNGA -- informal discussions not a bilateral meeting. That proved to be too complicated for the Iranians to do at this point," a senior administration official said.
There had been encouraging signs that the US and Iranian presidents would have the highest level contact since before Iran's 1979 revolution. Both presidents have talked about a diplomatic opening to try to settle Iran's nuclear ambitions.
US officials have welcomed initial signs that the new Iranian government may be prepared to open up and make progress on reining in the country's suspect nuclear program.
But the Americans have also cautioned that Iran must prove it is serious about taking such steps.
A 'polite, courteous and frank' talk with Hollande
The Iranians were not so cautious about a meeting with French President François Hollande, who had a "polite, courteous and frank discussion" with Rohani on Tuesday afternoon, according to a French presidential official.
"They discussed regional issues, including Syria and Lebanon, the nuclear issue and bilateral relations," the official told reporters. "The president said that he had noted his counterpart's call to engage in dialogue with the West but said he was waiting for words to be turned into actions."
After the meeting Hollande told reporters he wanted "this first contact (with Iran) to be the first of many".
On the nuclear issue, Hollande said that the international community "could not accept the idea of nuclear proliferation – this is not just about Iran, it concerns the security of the whole world".
Hollande added that "Iran has to accept that there must be a political transition in Syria".
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Original headline: Obama meeting with Rohani 'too complicated' for Iran
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