Iran, Syria top UN agenda for Obama

President Obama will use his speech Tuesday morning to the United Nations General Assembly to address three major diplomatic priorities: Iran, Syria, and peace in the Middle East.

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The president's remarks will focus on America's role in the region, a White House official said, with particular attention paid to eliminating the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

The president will discuss the recently brokered deal to secure Syria's chemical weapons cache, and is likely to call on the United Nations to pass a security council resolution codifying that agreement. 

He'll also discuss ongoing efforts to "achieve a political resolution to the civil war" ravaging the country, the White House official said.

The U.S. is eager to secure a U.N. resolution that would give international authority to a response if Syria failed to live up to the chemical weapons deal, which requires inspectors to be on the ground in the country by November. Under the agreement, Syria's chemical weapons stockpile would be destroyed or removed by the middle of next year.

On Iran, the president will discuss pursuing "a path forward" on eliminating the country's nuclear weapons program. The address is expected as the opening volley in high-stakes diplomatic posturing that could result in a face-to-face meeting between Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the new leader elected earlier this year.

On Monday, the White House left the door open to the first meeting between an American and Iranian head of state since 1977, saying it was "open to engagement with the Iranian government at a variety of levels."

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes also officially confirmed that Secretary of State John Kerry planned to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif on Thursday. The talks will be the first nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and Iran since Rouhani took office earlier this year, and the highest-level talks since the 1970s.

"We welcome Iran engaging seriously through that process given that it represents the international community’s commitment to holding Iran accountable, but also being open to a diplomatic resolution," Rhodes said.

Rhodes did insist that any meeting would be conditioned on Iran following "through on their commitments to address the international community's concerns over their nuclear program."

In addition to Iran and Syria, Obama is expected to discuss broader issues of Middle Eastern peace. He's likely to touch on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and tout negotiations that restarted earlier this year after the urging of Kerry.

The president will also discuss rapidly changing conditions in countries like Egypt, where the military ouster of the first democratically elected president has led to renewed questions about the success of the Arab Spring.

"While focusing on these diplomatic priorities where progress is being made, the President will also step back and discuss the events that have unfolded since the Arab Spring, and how the United States plans to engage the region going forward," the White House official said.