WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. officials are willing to talk to Iran if signals by Iran's new leader truly indicate a desire to reach out to the West, the Obama administration said.
Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, was elected Iran's president in June and recently began an exchange of letters with President Obama.
Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said Rouhani's election "presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community's deep concerns over Iran's nuclear program," the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
"Should this new government choose to engage substantially and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue," Meehan added, "it will find a willing partner in the United States."
Rouhani is scheduled to speak at the United Nations Sept. 24, and U.S. officials say it is possible they will meet with him on the sidelines, the newspaper said.
Iranian media have reported that Obama proposed in a letter to Rouhani that the countries "turn the page" in their diplomatic relations and hinted at a loosening of economic sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear development program.
Obama said in television interviews this week that "even Syria's allies, like Iran, detest chemical weapons," noting that Iranians were "unfortunately" gassed by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, says Iran and the United States have privately exchanged messages about the Syrian civil war, the Times reported.