Source: Mehr News Agency
President Barack Obama has signaled Iran that Washington would accept an Iranian civilian nuclear program if Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei can back up his recent public statement that his nation "will never pursue nuclear weapons." This verbal message was sent through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited the Supreme Leader last week, the Washington Post reported.
Obama's signal to Iran
By David Ignatius, Washington Post
A few days before traveling to Iran, Erdogan had held a two-hour meeting with Obama in Seoul, in which they discussed what Erdogan would tell the Leader about the nuclear issue and Syria.
Obama didn't specify whether Iran would be allowed to enrich uranium domestically as part of the civilian program the United States would endorse. That delicate issue evidently would be left for the negotiations that are supposed to start on April 13, at a venue yet to be decided.
Erdogan is said to have replied that he would convey Obama's views to the Leader, and it's believed he did so when he met Ayatollah Khamenei on March 29 in Mashhad, northeast Iran.
Erdogan also met President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior Iranian officials during his visit.
In a speech in February the Supreme Leader said: "The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons... Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous."
When Obama cited this statement to Erdogan as something to build on, the Turkish prime minister is said to have nodded in agreement.
The Erdogan back channel to Iran is the most dramatic evidence yet of the close relationship Obama has forged with the Turkish prime minister. Erdogan has been a key U.S. partner in handling Syria and other crises flowing from the Arab uprisings.
A sign of Erdogan's role as intermediary is that he was accompanied, both in the meeting with Obama and on the trip to Iran, by Hakan Fidan, the chief of Turkey's intelligence service. Fidan is said to have close relations with Qassem Suleimani, who heads Iran's Quds Force. Also joining Erdogan was Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister.
Syria was another big topic in Erdogan's discussions with Obama and his subsequent visit to Iran. The Turkish leader told Obama he would press Iran to reduce its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom Erdogan once championed but is now determined to oust.
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