Iran's leader reaches out to U.S., vows to resolve nuclear row

DUBAI Tue Aug 6, 2013 3:30pm EDT

Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani (L) gestures as he arrives to his swearing-in ceremony at the Iranian Parliament in Tehran in this August 4, 2013 photo provided by the Iranian state news agency (IRNA). Picture taken August 4, 2013. REUTERS/IRNA

Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani (L) gestures as he arrives to his swearing-in ceremony at the Iranian Parliament in Tehran in this August 4, 2013 photo provided by the Iranian state news agency (IRNA). Picture taken August 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/IRNA

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's incoming President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday offered an olive branch to the United States in talks on Tehran's disputed nuclear program, raising hopes of progress after years of stalemate.

Rouhani, seen in the West as a relatively moderate leader, told his first news conference since taking the oath on Sunday that he was "seriously determined" to resolve the dispute and was ready to enter "serious and substantive" negotiations.

Hopes for a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue have risen with Rouhani's victory over conservative rivals in June, when voters chose him to replace hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with a cleric whose watchword is "moderation".

Western countries and Israel have said in the past that they believed Iran was trying to achieve nuclear weapons capability, but Tehran says its program is purely for peaceful needs.

Rouhani said Iran would not abandon its nuclear program, which it would uphold "on the basis of international law".

"We will not do away with the right of the nation," the 64-year-old said.

"However, we are for negotiations and interaction. We are prepared, seriously and without wasting time, to enter negotiations which are serious and substantive with the other side."

"If the other party is also prepared like we are, then I am confident that the concerns of both sides will be removed through negotiations within a period which will not be very long."

LAST TALKS DEADLOCKED

His words were likely to reinforce a sense of cautious optimism in the West, despite the fact that negotiations over Iran's nuclear program have long frustrated both sides.

The last high-level talks between Iran and world powers - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - were held in April and failed to break the deadlock.

Since Rouhani's victory at the polls, the United States has said it would be a "willing partner" if Iran was serious about finding a peaceful solution to the issue.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki qualified those remarks on Tuesday.

Rouhani's inauguration "presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community's deep concerns over their nuclear program," she said.

But Psaki added, "there are steps they need to take to meet their international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, and the ball is in their court."

Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator, dodged a question on whether he would like to meet President Barack Obama during a visit to the United Nations in New York.

"If we see there is no covert secret agenda and there are good intentions, who will be meeting and who will be negotiating, these will be sideline issues," Rouhani said with a wry smile.

Hoping to seize on Rouhani's appointment, Russia on Tuesday said fresh talks between Iran and world powers must not be delayed and should take place by mid-September. Rouhani has yet to name his nuclear negotiator.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking during a visit to Italy, said Russia "absolutely agreed" with Rouhani, and criticized moves to tighten sanctions against Iran, saying it was a time for dialogue, not ultimatums.

"Now it is critical to support the constructive approach of the Iranian leadership," he said in comments carried on Russian news agencies.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin is due to meet Rouhani for the first time as president in September.

In a letter to the new leader on Tuesday, the European Union said Rouhani had "a strong mandate to engage in dialogue" and added that it hoped for a new round of talks "as soon as practicable."

SANCTIONS RANKLE

Rouhani warned against what he called the "carrot and stick" approach of the United States of offering talks and at the same time ratcheting up sanctions, which have had a deepening impact on Iran's economy over the last 18 months.

The measures have already cut Iran's oil exports by more than half compared to pre-sanctions levels of about 2.2 million barrels per day, helping to devalue Iran's currency and contributing to a steep rise in inflation.

"It is said (that) through sanctions they check Iran's nuclear activities. This is totally unfounded, and they themselves are cognizant of this fact ... It has nothing to do with the nuclear issue. It is pressuring people."

Rouhani's election has led to divisions in the United States, with Obama's administration cautiously welcoming the prospect of new talks and many in Congress arguing that the result of the vote showed sanctions had been effective.

Washington should "realize the fact that the solution is solely through talks and the threats will not solve any problem," Rouhani said.

"If anyone thinks through threats they can impose their will on the Iranian nation, they are making a very big mistake. This dual approach will not yield any result. This brings into question the honesty of American officials."

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the pressure on Iran had, in fact, been effective.

"Iran's president said that pressure won't work. Not true! The only thing that has worked in the last two decades is pressure," he said in a statement.

"And the only thing that will work now is increased pressure. I have said that before and I'll say it again, because that's important to understand. You relent on the pressure, they will go all the way. You should sustain the pressure".

Rouhani blamed what he called a "war-mongering group" in the U.S. House of Representatives for voting last week to increase sanctions on Iran.

Referring to Israel, he said the group "pursues the interests of a foreign country and receives most of its orders from the same country ... even U.S. interests are not being considered".

The United States and Israel have said all options, including military action, are open to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear arms.

(Additional reporting by Jon Hemming in Dubai; Alissa de Carbonnel in Moscow, Justyna Pawlak in Brussels, Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Paul Eckert in Washington; Writing by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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Comments (25)
monique87 wrote:
The West(US/Israel), will never accept a Nuclear Technology Iran, even with the assurances that will not make or even try to make a bomb.

Aug 06, 2013 11:36am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Is Rouhani looking toward the sun for help in solving the so-called nuclear problem with the West.
If he is, he’s probably one of the only international politicians who is aware of the following:
August 5, 2013 — Something big is about to happen on the sun.  According to measurements from NASA-supported observatories, the sun’s vast magnetic field is about to flip.
“It looks like we’re no more than 3 to 4 months away from a complete field reversal,” says solar physicist Todd Hoeksema of Stanford University. “This change will have ripple effects throughout the solar system.”
The sun’s magnetic field changes polarity approximately every 11 years.  It happens at the peak of each solar cycle as the sun’s inner magnetic dynamo re-organizes itself.  The coming reversal will mark the midpoint of Solar Cycle 24. Half of ‘Solar Max’ will be behind us, with half yet to come.
Hoeksema is the director of Stanford’s Wilcox Solar Observatory, one of the few observatories in the world that monitor the sun’s polar magnetic fields.  The poles are a herald of change. Just as Earth scientists watch our planet’s polar regions for signs of climate change, solar physicists do the same thing for the sun. Magnetograms at Wilcox have been tracking the sun’s polar magnetism since 1976, and they have recorded three grand reversals—with a fourth in the offing.

Aug 06, 2013 12:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
jella369 wrote:
The Iranian regime may be producing weapons-grade plutonium for nuclear bombs by next summer. The regime plans to use enriched uranium rods to generate 40 megawatts of power at a new heavy water reactor near the north-western city of Arak.See WSJ article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323997004578644140963633244.html

Aug 06, 2013 12:06pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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