|A tantalizing diplomatic dance at the UN between foes
The US and Iranian presidents, Barack Obama and Hassan Rowhani, came agonizingly close to a historic handshake Tuesday at the UN, officials said.
“It got so close that they had chosen the room and ordered some water,'' said a diplomat with knowledge of talks between the two sides on holding a breakthrough encounter, AFP reports.
Leaders from Iran and the United States have not met since the 1979 Islamic Revolution brought often open hostility to their contacts, particularly over Iran's contested nuclear program.
Obama and Rowhani, who since winning an election in June has said he wants to improve relations, spoke several hours apart at the UN General Assembly Tuesday. They were never in the same room together.
The United States appears to have taken the lead in pressing for a discussion of just a few minutes.
The two sides discussed a possible meeting, but in the end it was “too complicated,'' for Iran, said a senior US official.
Rowhani told CNN television in an interview how “preparation'' for a meeting was carried out.
“The United States declared its interest in having such a meeting and in principle could have, under certain circumstances, allowed it to happen,'' he added.
“I believe we didn't have sufficient time to really coordinate the meeting.''
Rowhani said that “ice-breaking'' was still going ahead. The environment is changing and that has come about as a result of the will of the people of Iran to create a new era of relations,'' he said.
“We indicated that the two leaders could have had a discussion on the margins if the opportunity presented itself,'' said a senior US administration official.
“The Iranians got back to us; it was clear that it was too complicated for them to do that at this time given their own dynamic back home,'' the official added.
US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday.