- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2013

NEW YORK — As President Obama arrived in New York ahead of his planned Tuesday speech to the U.N. General Assembly, a key outstanding question is whether he’ll sit down with new Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, a meeting that potentially could signal a shift in relations between the two nations.

As of Monday afternoon, however, there are still no plans for the two men to meet, according to the White House.

“We are open to engagement with the Iranian government at a variety of levels provided that they will follow through on their commitments to address the international community’s concerns over their nuclear program,” said Ben Rhodes, the administration’s national security adviser for strategic communications. “But we have no meeting scheduled with President Rouhani, though, as you’ve heard us say repeatedly, we don’t rule out that type of engagement.”

Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani already have exchanged letters, and the White House in recent weeks has emphasized its willingness to work with the Iranian leader.

In the absence of a scheduled meeting, there’s been talk that the two men would cross paths and have an impromptu, informal conversation.

But when it comes to dealing with Iran, nothing will happen by accident.

“I don’t think that anything would happen by happenstance on a relationship and an issue that is this important,” Mr. Rhodes said.

Mr. Obama is scheduled to address the United Nations on Tuesday morning; Mr. Rouhani will do the same on Tuesday afternoon.

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