The United States is ready to engage in talks with Iran about Tehran’s nuclear energy program “on the basis of mutual respect, ” the White House has announced.“We have had a number of engagements with the Iranians and we’ll continue to have conversations on the basis of mutual respect, ” Deputy White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Friday. “And over the course of those conversations, there will be an opportunity for the Iranians to demonstrate through actions the seriousness with which they are pursuing this endeavor, ” he added. The comments come amid media speculations about the possibility of a meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his US counterpart Barack Obama, both of whom will be in New York to participate in the 68th annual session of the United Nations General Assembly next week. White House Press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that Obama is “willing to have that meeting… provided that Iran demonstrates seriousness about dealing with its nuclear weapons program. ” In a Wednesday interview in Tehran with American NBC channel, President Rouhani did not rule out the possibility of a meeting with his US counterpart during his upcoming New York visit. In response to a question on whether the two presidents will meet in New York, Rouhani said, “Meeting Barack Obama, the president of the US, is not on the agenda of my trip; of course, depending on the circumstances that come up, everything is possible in the world of politics. ” In an opinion piece for theWashington Post on September 20, President Rouhani urged his international counterparts to “respond genuinely to my government’s efforts to engage in constructive dialogue.” The Iranian president said earlier in the NBC interview that Iran would never develop nuclear weapons and has never pursued that path. The United States, Israel and some of their allies falsely claim that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program, with the US and the European Union using the unfounded allegation as a pretext to impose illegal sanctions on Iran. Tehran strongly rejects the allegation, maintaining that as a committed signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.