UNITED NATIONS - The US and Iranian presidents, Barack Obama and Hassan Rowhani, came agonisingly close to a historic handshake on Tuesday, 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. 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. 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.”
And US officials said Obama remained open to a meeting with Iran’s top leaders who have often excoriated their US counterparts.
“I think our assessment is while President Rowhani has been elected with a mandate to pursue a more moderate foreign policy towards the West and to pursue negotiations - in part to achieve sanctions relief - the issue of the relationship between the United States and Iran is incredibly controversial within Iran,” said the senior US official