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In October, diplomats had said they were considering asking Iran for stricter limits on its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions in a long-shot approach aimed at yielding a solution that has eluded them for more than a decade.
One option could be for each side to put more on the table - both in terms of demands and possible rewards - than in previous meetings in a bid to break the stalemate despite deep skepticism about the chances of a breakthrough any time soon.
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to submit its next quarterly Iran report to member states on Friday, 10 days after Obama’s re-election raised hope of a revival of diplomacy after hawkish campaign talk and speculation that Israel might strike Iranian nuclear facilities.
The report is expected to show a defiant Iran pressing ahead with expanding its controversial nuclear program, despite harsh Western sanctions targeting its vital oil sector, and continuing to sanitize a military site the IAEA wants to visit.
On the crisis in Syria, Obama welcomed the recent formation of an umbrella group for the Syrian opposition fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, but he stopped short of recognizing it as a government in exile.
“I’m encouraged to see that the Syrian opposition created an umbrella group that may have more cohesion than they’ve had in the past,” said the president.
“We consider them a legitimate representative of the aspirations of the Syrian people. We’re not yet prepared to recognize them as some sort of government in exile, but we do think that it is a broad-based representative group,” he said.
Obama said he also shares Israel’s concern about the movement of chemical weapons in Syria during the current fighting and turmoil.