Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond
April 5, 2009 | 10:16 am
Iranian and Turkish media are all abuzz about the possibility that President Obama and former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami might meet at a U.N.-sponsored conference in Turkey this week.
Hurriyet, the big Turkish daily, is reporting that since both men are expected to attend the Alliance of Civilizations conference in Istanbul on Monday and Tuesday, the odds of a chance encounter are high, although noting that "it was not clear as of yesterday if the two would be at the summit at the same time."
Iran's conservative Mehr News Agency cited a close aide to Khatami as saying that "most probably" on the second day of the summit "a short talk will be held between" Khatami and Obama.
"One of the reasons for Obama's visit to Turkey and his presence in the second day of the Alliance for Civilizations summit on Tuesday is that he wants to meet a number of figures who participate at the summit, including ... Khatami, and talk to them about the issues concerning world nations and international climate," the source was quoted as saying.
A meeting between the two would be a relatively important diplomatic event. Obama has said he wants to change the tone of Iranian-U.S. relations in an attempt to sway Tehran to give up military aspects of its nuclear energy program and roll back its support for militant Arab allies fighting Israel.
Khatami was the smiling moderate who tried to reform Iran's domestic and foreign policies during a contentious eight-year reign that ended in 2005. He was going to challenge incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June elections but recently dropped out of the running.
-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut
Photo: Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. Credit: Vahid Salemi / Associated Press
P.S. Get news from the Middle East in your mailbox every day. The Los Angeles Times distributes a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates" and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.