* Kerry to meet with Iran's foreign minister, other envoys
* U.S. secretary of state looks forward to "good meeting"
* Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany also in meeting
By Arshad Mohammed and Matt Spetalnick
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 26 U.S. Secretary of State
John Kerry sought to bolster international support to keep
pressure on Iran in nuclear talks with world powers set for
Thursday even as Iran's new president pressed a diplomatic charm
offensive at the United Nations.
The meeting in New York involves a very rare encounter
between top officials of the United States and Iran. Iranian
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet with Kerry as
well as diplomats from Britain, France, Russia, China and
Germany at a session aimed at jump-starting efforts to resolve a
decade-long standoff over Iran's nuclear program.
Ahead of the session, Kerry said he looked forward to a
"good meeting" but would not address what Iran needed to do to
show a genuine desire to address its nuclear program.
The meeting with Zarif was set for 4 p.m. (2000 GMT).
Just hours before the start of the talks on the sidelines of
the U.N. General Assembly, Kerry secured agreement from his
Chinese counterpart calling for Iran to respond positively to
existing nuclear proposals by the six world powers, U.S.
The U.S. comments suggested that President Barack Obama's
administration intends to respond cautiously to Iranian
President Hassan Rouhani's overtures, avoiding any major
concessions unless Iran takes concrete steps to show it is
serious about curbing its nuclear ambitions. Rouhani is seeking
an easing of crippling international sanctions.
"Both the U.S. and China believe that Iran should cooperate
with the P5+1 and should respond positively to the proposals
that are on the table," a U.S. official said, referring to the
six permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany,
often referred to as the P5+1.
The six powers said in February that they want Iran to stop
enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, ship out some stockpiles
and shutter a facility where such enrichment work is done. In
return, they offered relief on international sanctions on Iran's
petrochemicals and trade in gold and other precious metals.
Rouhani's gestures since taking office in August have raised
hopes for a thaw in relations between Washington and Tehran
after years of estrangement and for a resolution of the dispute
on Iran's nuclear program.
A centrist cleric, Rouhani has stepped up efforts to
moderate Iran's image abroad during a visit to New York. He said
that Iran would never develop nuclear weapons - despite Western
suspicions that it is seeking to do so - and called for a
nuclear deal in three to six months. Iran has said its nuclear
program is for peaceful energy purposes only.
Obama on Tuesday cautiously embraced Rouhani's gestures as
the basis for a possible nuclear deal and challenged him to
demonstrate his sincerity.
The failure to orchestrate a handshake between the two
leaders, apparently due to Rouhani's concerns about a backlash
from hardliners at home, underscored how hard it will be to make
Addressing a U.N. meeting on nuclear disarmament on
Thursday, Rouhani said: "No nation should possess nuclear
weapons, since there are no right hands for these wrong
But Rouhani also seized the opportunity to take a swipe at
Iran's arch-foe Israel, which has accused him of trying to fool
the world and buy time to continue its nuclear advances.
Rouhani said Israel, widely assumed to be the Middle East's
only nuclear-armed state, was the reason for the failure of
international efforts to establish the region as a nuclear
Asked what he needed to hear from the Iranians to show they
were serious about addressing those concerns, Kerry, speaking to
reporters as he began a meeting with China's foreign minister,
replied: "I'll let you know after they've been serious."
Afterwards, a U.S. official said of the U.S.-China meeting:
"They talked through the elements of the diplomatic track, as
well as the sanctions track." Kerry also met with diplomats from
Libya and Pakistan on Thursday.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is
hosting the P5+1 meeting, met Rouhani earlier on Thursday,
Ashton's spokesman said.
"What is certain is that there is a new will emerging both
in Iran and among the P5+1 states to successfully conclude the
new round of talks with a new approach," Abbas Araqchi, the
Iranian deputy foreign minister, told Press TV, Iran's
state-owned English-language broadcaster.
Thursday's meeting would be the first between a U.S.
secretary of state and an Iranian foreign minister since a brief
encounter in May 2007. The two countries have been estranged
since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the
Iran has been negotiating with the P5+1 since 2006 about its
nuclear program, which Western powers and their allies suspect
is aimed at developing a nuclear-weapons capability.
Iranians are also hoping to see some concrete steps taken by
the Western powers - namely relief from the painful U.S.,
European Union and U.N. sanctions for refusing to suspend its
uranium enrichment program.