Of the 34 world leaders set to address the United Nations in New York Tuesday, all eyes are on President Obama and newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. U.S. and Iranian leaders have not met in more than three decades. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.
TEHRAN, Iran - Many ordinary Iranians favor better relations with America, and there was cautious optimism in the country’s capital about a possible meeting Tuesday between President Barack Obama and his counterpart, Hassan Rouhani.
“This is the best opportunity we have had in a long time, if ever, for us to come to a deal,” said Shiva, 22, an arts student.
“It will be a great shame if we do not. We may never get the chance again. It is time Iran and America made friends, we have a lot in common.”
On the streets of Tehran, analysts and ordinary citizens were waiting carefully to see whether the two leaders would meet face-to-face as they both attended the United Nations general assembly in New York.
It has been a frosty 34 years for relations between Iran and America, but there may be signs of a thaw.
Iran's newly appointed foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif who is U.S educated had has spent most of his adult life in the America, will meet six major powers at the UN this week to discuss Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
The meeting will include Secretary of State John Kerry – the highest-level contact between the two countries in three decades.
However, there is a long road ahead for both sides – and them. Decades of mistrust and animosity have left Iran and America in a sort of cold war.
“Coming to an agreement with the United States is the only way out of this impasse, but I am afraid that the Americans will not honor a deal, said Hassan Mohammadi, 49, a civil engineer.
“They may say something now then act very differently later when it suits them, our leaders have to very careful in negotiating with them. We helped them so much when they first went into Afghanistan, then they branded us the axis of evil.”
In reality, only America can address some of Iran’s fundamental concerns, whether it is a promise not to seek regime change, or a lifting of sanctions. Iran is also looking for respect as a significant regional power.
Nevertheless there is a fondness for all things American in Iran, from white goods to cars to films. Unlike most of Iran’s neighbors – whose governments enjoy a relationship with the U.S. but whose people are often anti-Washington, Iranians like the American people.
“Of course we want better relations with America, we have always been friends in the past and should be friends today,” said Maryam Negaresh, a grandmother who was in her fifties at the time of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.
“It is much better for Iran to be close to America than China or Russia. I bought a white Westinghouse fridge 45 years ago and it still works better than my daughter Korean fridge she bought last year. It would be great to have American goods readily available here.”
Mario Tama / Getty Images
Strong personalities and strong words have dotted the United Nations' history with scenes that won't soon be forgotten.
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This story was originally published on Tue Sep 24, 2013 11:02 AM EDT