President Barack Obama has signaled Tehran that the Washington would accept an civilian nuclear program in Iran if Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei can back up his recent claim that his nation “will never pursue nuclear weapons,” the Washington Post reported.
According to the report, the verbal message was sent through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who met with Khamenei last week. A few days prior to leaving for the trip, Erdogan held a two-hour meeting with Obama on the sidelines of the nuclear security summit in Seoul, in which they discussed what the Turkish leader would tell Khamenei about the nuclear issue.
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote that Obama advised Tehran, via Edrogan, that time is running out for a peaceful agreement. Obama didn’t specify whether Iran would be allowed to enrich uranium domestically. The issue evidently is to be discussed during the talks between the Islamic Republic and the West, which are slated start on April 13 at a venue yet to be decided.
Edrogan is said to have agreed with Obama that the primary challenge faced by the negotiators is turning Khamenei’s public rhetoric into a serious and verifiable commitment not to build a bomb.
Erdogan reportedly conveyed Obama’s message to Khamenei when he met the Iranian leader on Thursday. Erdogan also met President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior Iranian officials during his visit.
Western diplomats remain skeptic about the success of the diplomatic path, especially in light of the recent disagreement over the venue for the upcoming negotiations. According to the report, Istanbul was expected to host the talks, but the Iranians last weekend balked and suggested instead to meet in Iraq or China.
US officials consider this foot-dragging a sign that the Iranian leadership is still formulating its positions ahead of the talks.
Meanwhile, the US pressed on with sanctions that aim to deprive Tehran of revenue needed to develop its nuclear program.