An Iranian government adviser said Tehran wants a deal with Washington to end economic sanctions in return for assurances Iran will not develop nuclear weapons.
Amir Mohebbian, a longtime adviser to Iranian leaders who took part in high-level diplomatic strategy sessions, said the proposed strategy resulted from a letter U.S. President Barack Obama sent to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani a few weeks ago, offering relief from debilitating sanctions if Iran will "cooperate with the international community, keep your commitments and remove ambiguities," The New York Times reported Friday.
A senior U.S. official the Times did not name said Obama made no promises in the letter.
Mohebbian and others said Tehran wants to end sanctions as soon as possible so it can re-establish relations with the international banking system. Some Iranian leaders are concerned hard-line Muslim clerics and military officials might react against Rouhani if the so-called P5-plus-1 process -- diplomatic efforts involving the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany -- fails to lead to a quick resolution of issues surrounding Iran's nuclear program.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, speaking Friday with reporters aboard Air Force One, said the United States welcomed comments such as Mohebbian's "as they do indicate a willingness to act constructively -- to work constructively with the international community. But the fact of the matter is actions are what are going to be determinative here."
Earnest said Iran has been unwilling for years to meet its "obligations to the international community as it relates to their nuclear program. And these sanctions have tightened around the Iranian regime, further isolated them from the international community, taken a significant toll on their economy and put pressure on them to come back to the bargaining table."
He said the United States "stands ready to engage with the Iranians on the basis of mutual respect."
Earnest said no meeting had been scheduled between Obama and Rouhani.
"The age of blood feuds" is over, Rouhani said Friday in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post, urging world leaders to capitalize on the opportunity his presidency presents for better relations with Iran.
"The world has changed," Rouhani wrote in an op-ed column appearing Friday in The Washington Post. "International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multidimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously.
"Gone is the age of blood feuds," he said in the column. "World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities."
Rouhani -- whose op-ed piece was published ahead of his U.N. General Assembly address in New York Tuesday -- said nations must change belief systems that produce "unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart."
The Shiite Muslim cleric, lawyer, academic and former diplomat was sworn in Aug. 3 as president, after defeating five hard-liners in June on a promise to end Iran's international isolation.
"Iranians embraced my approach to domestic and international affairs because they saw it as long overdue," he wrote. "I'm committed to fulfilling my promises to my people, including my pledge to engage in constructive interaction with the world."
Rouhani and his Cabinet have sent signals Western diplomats see as indicating a willingness to improve relations with the West and ease economic woes besetting Iranians, due to years of U.S. sanctions because of the disputed nuclear program.
The White House said Thursday it was open to a direct exchange between Rouhani and President Barack Obama, who is also to address the General Assembly Tuesday.
Rouhani said in his Post article Iran's insistence in pursuing its nuclear program -- which he, like earlier leaders, insisted was solely for peaceful purposes -- was not simply to benefit from nuclear power, but also to address the core issue of Iranian identity.
"To us, mastering the atomic fuel cycle and generating nuclear power is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world," he said.
"Without comprehending the role of identity, many issues we all face will remain unresolved," he said.
Rouhani said humanity has missed the mark in its attempts to create a world of peace and harmony and happiness.
One reason for this is because of foreign policies based on "unilateralism," which have produced "disastrous consequences," he said, citing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the Syrian civil war.
In the Syrian conflict, he said Iran was ready "to help facilitate dialogue" between the Assad regime and the opposition.
Another reason humanity has missed the mark, he said, is because world leaders, in Iran as well as elsewhere, have focused "perhaps too much" on "what we don't want rather than what we do want," he said.