UNITED NATIONS - President Barack Obama says he has directed Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue a nuclear weapons agreement with Iran and that he firmly believes "the diplomatic path must be tested."
Obama told the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday he's encouraged that Iranian President Hasan Rouhani is pursuing a more moderate course. But he said Rouhani's "conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable."
The West has long suspected that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon. Tehran has consistently denied the charge.
It's still unclear if Obama will meet with Rouhani while at the United Nations. The leaders of the two countries haven't had face-to-face contact in more than 30 years.
U.S. officials say no meeting is planned, although they haven't ruled one out.
On another front, Obama said the U.N. Security council must agree to a resolution on Syrian chemical weapons that includes consequences for the regime of President Bashar Assad if he doesn't meet demands to dismantle his chemical stockpile.
Obama told his U.N. audience that failure to include such consequences would mean the international body is unable to enforce such requirements.
Obama said it would be, quote, "an insult to human reason and the legitimacy" of the U.N. to suggest that the Assad regime did not carry out a chemical attack on civilians last month.