French, Iranian presidents to meet in New York

French, Iranian presidents to meet in New York
Fri Sep 20, 2013 08:51:10

French President Francois Hollande says he would meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next week, the first meeting between presidents of the two countries since 2005.

France has been a strong advocate of sanctions to pressure Iran over its nuclear program but has been cautious since Rouhani was elected earlier this year. Hollande said on Thursday he had accepted an invitation to meet with the new Iranian president.

"There is a plan to meet with the Iranian president at his request," Hollande told reporters before leaving Bamako, where he was attending a ceremony to mark the swearing-in of Mali's new president.

Hollande would be the first Western leader of the P5+1 nations - United States, Russia, China, Britain, France plus Germany - to meet Rouhani, although the White House said on Thursday it was possible that President Barack Obama could meet Rouhani in New York.

"We should not slam the door on him. We need to see what is behind the words and things will be judged on the acts. The meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly will enable us to establish what the Iranian intentions are," said a French diplomatic source.

Hollande, who will be the first French president to meet an Iranian president since 2005 when Jacques Chirac met Mohammad Khatami in Paris, is due to attend the UN meeting on September 24.

Rouhani stated in a Wednesday interview with NBC News that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons and that he has the clout to make a deal with the West on the disputed nuclear program.

France's foreign minister is also scheduled to meet his Iranian counterpart, the first time foreign ministers of the countries have met since September 2011.

The United States and its western allies claimed Iran is working towards developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at power production and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has time and again verified non-diversion in Iran’s nuclear activities.


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