UNITED NATIONS, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Below are the key portions of U.S. President Barack Obama's comments about Iran during his speech at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. The transcript was prepared by Reuters.
"In the near term, America's diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and the Arab-Israeli conflict. While these issues are not the cause of all the region's problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace.
"The United States and Iran have been isolated from one another since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. This mistrust has deep roots. Iranians have long complained of a history of U.S. interference in their affairs and of America's role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War. On the other hand, (Americans see) an Iranian government that has declared the United States an enemy and directly, or through proxies, taken American hostages, killed U.S. troops and civilians, and threatened our ally Israel with destruction.
"I don't believe this difficult history can be overcome overnight. The suspicions run too deep. But I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear program - that can serve as a major step down a long road towards a different relationship - one based on mutual interests and mutual respect.
"Since I took office, I have made it clear in letters to the supreme leader of Iran, and more recently to President Rouhani, that America prefers to resolve our concerns over Iran's nuclear program peacefully, although we are determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. We are not seeking regime change and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy.
"Instead, we insist that the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and U.N.. Security Council resolutions. Now meanwhile, the supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons. President Rouhani has just recently reiterated that the Islamic Republic will never develop a nuclear weapon.
"So these statements made by our respective governments should offer the basis for a meaningful agreement. We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people, while giving the world confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful. To succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable. After all, it's the Iranian government's choices that have led to the comprehensive sanctions that are currently in place and this is not simply an issue between the United States and Iran. The world has seen Iran evade its responsibilities in the past and has an abiding interest in making sure that Iran meets its obligations in the future.
"But I want to be clear, we are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course and given President Rouhani's stated commitment to reach an agreement, I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government in close cooperation with the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China. The roadblocks may prove to be too great but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested. And while the status quo will only deepen Iran's isolation, Iran's genuine commitment to go down a different path will be good for the region and for the world and will help the Iranian people reach their extraordinary potential in commerce and culture, in science and education." (Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Bill Trott)