Iran minister, UN chief discuss nuclear issue

Iran`s foreign minister and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon exchanged views on the country`s controversial nuclear program.

New York: Iran`s foreign minister and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon exchanged views on Thursday on the country`s controversial nuclear program and its potential role in ending the Syrian conflict, two issues expected to dominate next week`s annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, a former UN ambassador, returned to UN headquarters for the first time since he was named foreign minister by the country`s new president, Hassan Rowhani, who will be making his first appearance at the General Assembly on Tuesday.

"I commend the efforts of the new government in Iran in promoting dialogue with the international community," Ban said. "I`m pleased the government ... Is now taking some concrete steps to fulfil the promises made by President Hassan Rowhani during his recent election campaign."

After years of frozen diplomatic relations, US President Barack Obama and Hassan Rowhani, considered a relative moderate in Iran`s hard-line clerical regime, exchanged letters after his election.

This has fuelled widespread speculation that US and Iranian officials may meet on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

Avaaz, an activist organisation that uses the Internet to mobilise support for various political issues, said it launched a campaign this week which has already been signed by more than 1.1 million people calling on the US and Iranian leaders to agree to talks at the General Assembly. It is also running polls in Iran to gauge opinion on a US-Iran meeting.

"This could be President Obama`s Nixon-to-China moment that would save Syrian lives the question is whether the two reform-minded leaders who will soon be mere steps away from each other in New York will seize it," Avaaz campaign director Ian Bassin said.

Zarif hosted a lunch for many UN ambassador and yesterday and invited the five permanent members of the Security Council the US, Russia, China, Britain and France. Several ambassadors who attended said they did not see US Ambassador Samantha Power but it wasn`t clear whether a lower-ranking US diplomat was among the guests.