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Peace, Syria and Iran to Dominate Obama's Agenda Next Week

The U.S. President will meet Abbas on Tuesday and his General Assembly address will focus on the Middle East. No meeting scheduled with Iran's Rohani yet.

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The Middle East is expected to take center stage at the United Nations next week, both in the addresses to the General Assembly and in the meetings on the sidelines.

United States President Barack Obama will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New York next Tuesday, the White House announced on Friday. The subject of the meeting, according to U.S. deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, will be the recently relaunched peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, which are currently treading water.

Obama will also meet with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, with whom he will discuss the influx of refugees into Lebanon from the Syrian civil war, Rhodes said.

Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are due to meet in Washington on September 30.

No meeting has been scheduled for the U.S. president and newly-elected Iranian President Hasan Rohani, though Rhodes left open the possibility that a meeting might take place on the sidelines of the General Assembly session. The U.S., Rhodes said, is open to engagement with Iran's government, although there is no "open-ended window" for diplomacy. The General Assembly session will be the first appearance on the international stage of the new Iranian president, who has been currying favor with the West in recent weeks.

Rohani announced on Twitter Friday that he would meet in New York with French President Francois Hollande.

The Middle East will be at the heart of Obama's address to the General Assembly on Tuesday. Rhodes said that the president would focus on events and U.S. interests in the Middle East and North Africa, providing what Rhodes said will be an update on America's approach.

Syria will be a key part of that, including a call for the international community to take a firm position against the use of chemical weapons.

"He will reinforce the need for the international community to stand strongly against the use of chemical weapons, and continue to argue for a clear diplomatic process to put Assad's chemical weapons under international control and ultimately destroy them, including our support for a UN Security Council resolution that enforces consequences on the Assad regime should they fail to cooperate with the international community in that effort," said Rhodes.

At the same time, Obama will underscore the importance of a political solution to the Syrian civil war, one that cannot include President Bashar al-Assad, Rhodes said.

Obama will also reiterate his stance on Iran's nuclear program, while conveying his "openness to diplomacy and the prospect for a peaceful resolution of this issue," Rhodes said.

President Obama will leave the Rose Garden next week for the UN General Assembly.Credit: Reuters

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