by William M. Reilly
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- Impressed with the new foreign minister of Iran during a meeting Thursday, UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon commended the freshly installed Tehran government for presenting a promising outlook to the international community.
"I had a very good meeting this morning with the new Foreign Minister of Iran, Jawad Zarif," Ban told reporters at the release of a report on the progress of the Millennium Development Goals. " I commend the efforts of the new government in Iran in promoting dialogue with the international community."
Ban's chief spokesman Martin Nesirky said Ban and Zarif " discussed Iran's growing cooperation with the international community on a host of issues, including the nuclear file, as well the role Iran could play in promoting a political solution to the conflict in Syria."
Western countries have long accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons under the cover of Tehran's nuclear power plans -- an allegation Iran strongly denies and has repeatedly dismissed.
Tehran insists its nuclear work is strictly for peaceful purposes and did not intend to build a nuclear weapon.
"The secretary-general also welcomed the release yesterday ( Wednesday) by the Iranian government of a number of political prisoners," the spokesman said.
Nesirky said the secretary-general "expressed hope that the ( Iranian) government will continue to take steps to fulfill the promises made by President (Hassan) Rouhani during his recent election campaign."
Ban planned to meet with Rouhani during the annual General Debate of the General Assembly next week here at UN headquarters " to discuss matters of mutual concern very closely."
Rouhani told NBC, a major U.S. television network, on Wednesday his administration won't develop nuclear weapons. The new president also noted that he has full authority to make a deal with Western powers on his country's nuclear program.
Describing his initial interaction with U.S. President Barack Obama as "positive and constructive," Rouhani said Obama sent him a letter of congratulation after his election.
Earlier in the week, during an interview on ABC, a major U.S. television network, Obama said he told Rouhani in the letter the American concern over Iran's nuclear capability was stronger than that of Syria's chemical weapon stockpile.
Syria has been under threat of U.S. military strikes because of its alleged use of chemical weapons.
A recent UN report only confirmed use of such munitions but did not identify who used them, the government or the opposition.