By Jeff Mason

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A potential encounter at the United Nations between U. S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani failed to take place on Tuesday as the Iranians indicated it was too complicated, senior Obama administration officials said.

"There will be no meeting," one official said.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters that Obama had been open to a meeting with Rouhani while both were in New York for U. N. activities but the Iranians were not ready to have an encounter at the presidential level.

There had been encouraging signs that the U. S. and Iranian presidents would have the highest level contact since before Iran's 1979 revolution. Both presidents have talked about a diplomatic opening to try to settle Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Officials stressed that any encounter between the two men would not have involved negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon.

Diplomacy will now go forward between U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, the officials said.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Steve Holland; Editing by Sandra Maler and Jim Loney)

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