Washington: In a secret message sent through a foreign leader to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, US President Barack Obama hinted that Tehran can have a civilian nuclear programme if it never pursues a nuclear weapon, a media report said.
"President Obama has signalled Iran that the United States would accept an Iranian civilian nuclear programme if Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei can back up his recent public claim that his nation 'will never pursue nuclear weapons'," the usually authoritative Washington Post reported.
Khamenei had recently said: "The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous."
The daily said the verbal message was sent to Khamenei via Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who recently met Obama and later visited Tehran.
"A few days before travelling to Iran, Erdogan had held a two-hour meeting with Obama in Seoul, in which they discussed what Erdogan would tell the ayatollah about the nuclear issue and Syria," the report said.
During the meeting, Obama told Erdogan that the Iranians should realise that time was running out for a peaceful resolution that Tehran should take advantage of the current window for negotiations, the report said.
But Obama did not specify whether Iran would be allowed to enrich uranium domestically, and this delicate issue evidently would be left for the upcoming talks between Iran and the six world powers, the report said.
The report said Erdogan is believed to have conveyed Obama's message to Khamenei when they met in Iran.
According to Xinhua, the six world powers — Russia, China, US, Britain, France and Germany— and Iran are scheduled to meet in Istanbul 13-14 April for talks over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme.
Iran recently proposed that Baghdad should also be considered as the venue for the talks. The issue has not been finalised yet.