French and Iranian presidents to meet at UN amid hopes Iran can help end Syrian civil war

French President Francois Hollande plans to meet with Iran's new leader at the United Nations next week, in hopes that the Islamic regime can help work out a political solution to end Syria's civil war.

Top officials in Hollande's office said Friday that he was hoping to take advantage of a new "openness" in Iran since the election of Hassan Rouhani. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be named publicly.

France hopes that the meeting of the two presidents — unthinkable a year ago when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was Iranian president — will open a direct channel of communication over Syria.

Iran is a major supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been fighting rebels for 2½ years. France backs the opposition.