UNITED NATIONS -- President
Iranian officials told the administration that it was "too complicated" for them to pull off right now.
The decision to not have a casual conversation -- or even a handshake -- at Tuesday's gathering of world leaders throws a bit of cold water on the seemingly warming relations between the two countries after decades of diplomatic stand-off.
But analysts said it was not necessarily a significant setback, as the Iranian delegation wasn't all that interested in a photo opportunity to begin with.
Obama administration officials also note that Secretary of State
Rouhani is seeking relief from international sanctions meant to deter Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is exclusively for civilian purposes, such as power generation and medical research.
In a morning address to the General Assembly, Obama opened the door to dialogue and welcomed Rouhani's public pledge that Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.
But a one-on-one encounter between the presidents, under discussion for days, fell victim to Iranian politics, one administration official said in announcing the decision not to meet Tuesday.
"The Iranians have an internal dynamic that they have to manage," the senior administration official said. "And the relationship with the United States is clearly quite different than the relationship that Iran has with other Western countries, even."