Iran President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran. (AFP)
Aug. 6: Iran’s new President said today that he was ready for serious negotiations with the big powers over the disputed Iranian nuclear programme, adding that his country does not wish to threaten anyone and dismissing the American and European sanctions levied on Iran as counterproductive.
The President, Hassan Rouhani, also said Iran’s programme of uranium enrichment had strong popular domestic support, countering some rumblings within Iran that the pain inflicted by western economic sanctions was not worth the cost of maintaining the programme.
Iran has insisted that its nuclear programme is peaceful but the US, members of the EU, Israel and many other countries suspect that Iran wants to achieve the ability to make nuclear weapons.
Rouhani made the assertions in a series of Twitter messages sent via his official English-language account during a news conference in Tehran, his first since taking the oath of office on Saturday.
Rouhani said his election victory on June 14 should be interpreted by the world, including the US, as a significant message. Rouhani defeated a slate of far more conservative candidates, including the hardline nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, who made no progress under Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“What should America do? Hear voice and message of our people,” Rouhani said in one Twitter post. “We want the White House to get out of this situation and see the facts accordingly,” he said in another.
Using the colloquial shorthand common in Twitter, he also said: “Provided that our natl interests are met, we have no problems w negotiations w any1 w good intentions, incl US.”
Referring to the stalled negotiations with the big powers, the five permanent members of the Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the US — plus Germany, over enrichment, he said: “Iran’s determination to resolve nuclear issue & concerns are serious. If they are serious too, we will see results.”
He said nothing, however, about what Iran was specifically prepared to do.
The Obama administration has expressed hope that Rouhani’s election could lay the basis for progress over the nuclear dispute. At the same time, Congress has intensified the sanctions pressure on Iran. Last week, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation that could, if enacted and fully enforced, effectively stop Iran’s oil exports. Yesterday, 76 senators said President Obama should toughen the sanctions against Iran even as it pursues negotiations.
Referring to the sanctions, Rouhani said in one Twitter post: “We don’t want to see continuation of pressure, or carrot and stick. we never liked that idea and still don’t.”
Hoping to seize on Rouhani’s appointment, Russia today 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.