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The White House had reached out to Tehran earlier this month to offer a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Monday or Tuesday, but Rouhani declined at the time. But the U.S. and five negotiating partners emerged from a meeting with Iran Thursday declaring that a "window of opportunity has opened" to peacefully settle the nuclear standoff.
The White House said Iranian officials reached out Friday and indicated Rouhani would like to speak to Obama before leaving New York, and Obama’s aides quickly arranged the call.
Rouhani told reporters at the U.N., "I want it to be the case that this trip will be a first step and a beginning for better and constructive relations with countries of the world as well as a first step for a better relationship between the two great nations of Iran and the United States of America."
Both sides said the presidents directed their top diplomats, Zarif and Kerry, to continuing pursing an agreement, with Iranian and U.N. officials have agreed to meet again Oct. 28. Obama said the U.S. will coordinate closely with its allies — including Israel, which considers that Iranian nuclear weapon capability is a deadly threat.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has said his meeting on Monday with Obama at the White House will focus on the Iranian issue.
Israel has viewed Rouhani’s outreach to the West with great skepticism, saying he is trying to trick the world into easing sanctions and hoping to buy time while he pushes forward with attempts to build a nuclear weapon. Israeli leaders have compared Rouhani’s diplomacy to that of North Korea, which quietly developed a nuclear weapon while engaging the West.
The U.S. informed Israel of the call, a senior administration official said.
Lara Jakes reported from the United Nations.
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