WASHINGTON (AP) — Iranian President Hasan Rouhani received a "positive and constructive" letter from President Barack Obama congratulating him on his election, Rouhani told NBC News in an interview Wednesday.
"It could be subtle and tiny steps for a very important future," Rouhani said, according to an NBC translation of a clip released in advance of a longer segment to be aired later Wednesday. Separately, NBC quoted Rouhani as saying his administration will never develop nuclear weapons and that he has full authority to make a deal with the West on the nuclear dispute.
Rouhani is to make his first appearance on the world stage as president next week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. U.S. officials are hoping for more signs that he will warm relations with the West and take a more moderate line in the next negotiations on Iran's nuclear program.
The U.S. and its allies suspect Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, although Iran insists its nuclear activities are only for producing energy and medical research.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said there were no current plans for Obama to meet Rouhani at the General Assembly.
"I think it's fair to say that the president believes there is an opportunity for diplomacy when it comes to the issues that have presented challenges to the United States and our allies with regards to Iran," he said. "And we hope that the Iranian government takes advantage of this opportunity."
Carney said the U.S. will test Rouhani's assertions that he wants to improve relations with the international community.
He also noted that Obama too had confirmed the exchange of letters with Rouhani. In his letter, Obama indicated that the U.S. was ready to resolve the nuclear issue in a way that would allow Iran to demonstrate that its program was exclusively for peaceful purposes, Carney said.
"The letter also conveyed the need to act with a sense of urgency to address this issue because as we have long said, the window of opportunity for resolving this diplomatically is open, but it will not remain open indefinitely," Carney said.
Rouhani said the letter from Obama raised some issues the U.S. president was concerned about and that he had responded to the points Obama raised.
"From my point of view, the tone of the letter was positive and constructive," Rouhani said, adding that world leaders should not be under the influence of pressure groups.
NBC said the interview was conducted Wednesday in Tehran.