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Rohani Seeks Nuclear Deal In Three To Six Months

Iranian President Hassan Rohani
President Hassan Rohani has said in a new U.S. interview that he hopes to reach a deal with world powers on Iran's nuclear program in as little as three to six months.

In an interview with "The Washington Post," Rohani is quoted as saying his "choice" would be a three-month timetable but that six months would still be "good."

He said the time frame should be a matter of "months, not years."

Rohani also said he has been "fully empowered to finalize the nuclear talks" by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Rohani's comments were published ahead of international talks on the Iranian nuclear program scheduled for September 26 in New York.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are expected to participate.

It will be one of the highest-level meetings between Iran and the United States since diplomatic ties were severed in the wake of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Kerry and Zarif will be coming together for a meeting of the so-called P5+1 group, or the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States -- plus Germany.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will host the meeting.

Asked what he expected from the meeting, Zarif said he hoped for a "jump-start" to negotiations, with a "view to reaching an agreement within the shortest span."

In his address to the UN General Assembly on September 24, Rohani spoke of the damage being done to the Iranian economy and ordinary Iranians by UN sanctions and separate sanctions by the United States and its allies. Those measures were imposed over Iran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to make fuel for both energy and nuclear weapons.

Iran says it has the right to conduct enrichment and denies any effort to develop an atomic weapon.

In his address to the General Assembly, President Barack Obama said the United States wants to "test" Iran’s willingness to pursue a diplomatic solution.

White House spokesman Jay Carney emphasized the point on September 25.

"What we heard from President Rohani, I think, reflects what we've been hearing and that is an interest in making progress towards resolving this very serious problem that Iran has over its nuclear weapons program," Carney told reporters. "And that is why, as we've been saying for a while now, including in New York at the United Nations, we are very interested in testing the assertions about that interest on behalf of the Iranians in resolving this conflict diplomatically."

Obama had been prepared to meet Rohani on the sidelines of the General Assembly, but U.S. officials said Iran rejected such a step, citing complications.

The last high-level meeting between U.S. and Iranian officials occurred in 2007, when then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with her Iranian counterpart, Manuchehr Mottaki, in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Rohani is considered a relative moderate in Iran's political system and was elected in a landslide in June.

In what's seen as another conciliatory gesture, during his visit to New York, Rohani condemned as a "reprehensible crime" the Holocaust of Jews by Nazi forces in World War II, but said the scale of the slaughter was a question for historians.

Rohani's more hard-line predecessor, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, triggered outrage by questioning the facts of the Holocaust, in which some 6 million people were killed.

With reporting by, Reuters, and AP