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WH: No Chance of 'Happenstance' Meeting With Iran's Leader

2:29 PM, Sep 23, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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The White House says there is no chance of a "happenstance" meeting between President Obama and Iran's leader. But they aren't saying there's no chance the two leaders will meet.

From today's gaggle aboard Air Force One:

Q: Any more on a Rouhani meeting?

MR. RHODES: We do not have a meeting scheduled with President Rouhani. As you heard us say repeatedly, 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.

I would note that in addition, Secretary Kerry will be meeting with his P5-plus-1 counterparts as well as the Iranian foreign minister, so that's an opportunity for us to reaffirm, together with our P5-plus-1 partners, the importance of Iran coming in line with international obligations. We welcome Iran engaging seriously through that process given that it represents the international community's commitment to holding Iran accountable, but also being open to a diplomatic resolution.

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. CARNEY: I think it's important if I could just note, and I know Ben would agree with me that from the beginning from this President's time in office, our position on Iran has been consistent, and that is a willingness to meet with the Iranians, a willingness to have bilateral conversations and obviously to pursue negotiations through the P5-plus-1, commensurate with a willingness by Iran to be serious about dealing with its nuclear weapons program. And the approach we've taken has obviously united the international community in a way that it was not united in dealing with this issue prior to President Obama taking office.

Q: So if there's a handshake it will be purely by happenstance?

MR. RHODES: I don't think that anything would happen by happenstance on a relationship and an issue that is this important. So I think, clearly, this is an issue that we devoted as much time to as any other issue on our national security agenda for the last five years. We have had a very carefully structured policy both in terms of the sanctions that we put in place on Iran and in terms of how we engage with the Iranian government and the international community on this issue.

So this is something that we will, of course, continue to pay very careful attention to.

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