Iranian president calls for 'constructive interaction' with US

Iran's president took to the Washington Post opinion pages Thursday to make the case for “constructive engagement” with the United States.

And, in report from Friday's New York Times, a prominent adviser to Iran's leaders said Tehran is prepared to gamble on a swift agreement over its nuclear program following a letter from President Obama that signalled U.S. flexibility in striking a deal. 

Hassan Rouhani's message comes just as the White House announced that President Obama is “willing” to meet with him at the UN General Assembly in New York next week in what would be the first encounter between the two countries' leaders since the nations broke off diplomatic ties in 1980. Rouhani has sought to portray himself since his June election as a moderate leader that the United States can work with to avert a showdown over the country's alleged nuclear weapons program.

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“As I depart for New York for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, I urge my counterparts to seize the opportunity presented by Iran’s recent election,” he wrote. “I urge them to make the most of the mandate for prudent engagement that my people have given me and to respond genuinely to my government’s efforts to engage in constructive dialogue.”

Rouhani made it clear however that his “constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights,” an allusion to the country's nuclear program, which Iran insists is for peaceful purposes. 

“The centrality of identity extends to the case of our peaceful nuclear energy program,” he wrote. “To us, mastering the atomic fuel cycle and generating nuclear power is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world. Without comprehending the role of identity, many issues we all face will remain unresolved.”

But, he said, Iran and the United States can find a way to get along peacefully if the U.S. abandons what he called a “unilateral approach” that he said has failed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I’m committed to fulfilling my promises to my people, including my pledge to engage in constructive interaction with the world,” he said. “Gone is the age of blood feuds. World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities.”

Rouhani also used the piece to announce Iran's willingness to act as a mediator between the Bashar Assad regime and the opposition in Syria. The Obama administration has accused Iran of playing a negative role in the conflict and has balked at having Iran participate in proposed U.S.-Russian peace talks later this year.

"Syria, a jewel of civilization, has become the scene of heartbreaking violence, including chemical weapons attacks, which we strongly condemn,” he wrote. “We must create an atmosphere where peoples of the region can decide their own fates.”

Updated at 6:06 a.m. Friday

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