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Obama to address Iran, Syria, Mideast in U.N. speech

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during his meeting with Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan in New York September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Kev
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during his meeting with Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan in New York September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Kev

NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will make clear on Tuesday that he wants to pursue a diplomatic path to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program in a U.N. General Assembly speech that will also cover events in Syria and the Middle East.

In a speech scheduled for 10:10 a.m. EDT (1410), a White House official said Obama will lay out U.S. views in three areas: efforts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, the international effort to gain control of Syria's chemical weapons and the search for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

It remained unclear whether Obama would have a direct encounter with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani while both are in New York on Tuesday. White House officials say Obama is open to such an encounter under the right conditions.

The United States and its allies have for years applied pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. Tehran denies trying to build a weapon and insists its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only.

But a U.S.-Russian agreement this month aimed at getting control of Syrian chemical weapons after an August 21 poison gas attack in Syria has added momentum to efforts to engage Iran.

Obama and Rouhani exchanged letters recently in which each expressed a willingness to find a diplomatic outcome.

The White House official said Obama's speech will also focus on ongoing efforts to achieve a political resolution to the civil war in Syria.

In addition, he will discuss the resurgence in diplomatic activity aimed at bringing Israelis and Palestinians together as the two parties take part in direct negotiations.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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