Will U.S. And Iranian Leaders Cross Paths At U.N.?

NPR icon by Mark Memmott
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Rouzbeh Jadidoleslam

The question of the day isn't what President Obama will speak about when he addresses the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly shortly after 10 a.m. ET.

Among the subjects he'll address are some rather obvious topics: the crisis in Syria, the Middle East peace process, the terrorist attack on a mall in Kenya, and the West's relations with Iran.

No, the big question is whether Obama and new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will cross paths and possibly even exchange words or a handshake.

As NPR's Ari Shapiro said on Morning Edition, it would be "huge" if that happens because the leaders of the U.S. and Iran haven't met since before the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The White House, Ari added, has been "very coy" about whether Obama will see Rouhani.

Ari noted that when a White House spokesman was asked whether the two leaders might encounter each other by happenstance, the official said no such thing "would happen by happenstance."

So, if Obama and Rouhani — who have exchanged letters — do exchange greetings, we should assume it wasn't an accidental meeting and was meant to signal that relations between their two nations might be improving.

Also on Morning Edition, NPR's Michele Kelemen previewed Rouhani's address to the General Assembly. As she said, diplomats are "cautiously optimistic" about the moderate-wounding Rouhani and the prospects for negotiations about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Rouhani is scheduled to address the General Assembly at mid-afternoon Tuesday. A rough agenda with the order of speakers is here. We'll be posting highlights of the two presidents' addresses and other leaders' speeches.

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