Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that his country was poised to negotiate with the United States over the country’s disputed nuclear enrichment effort but insisted on continuing the peaceful nature of the programme.
In his first address at the United Nations to the annual General Assemly, Mr. Rouhani said that Iran “poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region,” and that U.S. and European Union sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy “are violent, pure and simple.” “I declare here, openly and unambiguously,” Mr. Rowhani continued, “nuclear weapon and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran’s security and defence doctrine and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions.” The U.S., Israel and European powers allege that Iran’s current uranium enrichment is working toward nuclear weapons capability, which Tehran vehemently denies.
Mr. Rouhani called it “extremely unrealistic to presume that the peaceful nature of the nuclear programme of Iran could be ensured through impeding the programme via illegitimate pressures.” Mr. Rouhani said Iran wants to remove any concerns regarding its nuclear program and to hold talks with the U.S. based on “mutual respect.” Western officials have welcomed Mr. Rouhani’s conciliatory tone toward the West but insisted on seeing actions.
“The time is now right for those statements to be matched by concrete steps by Iran to address the international community’s concerns,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters on Monday after meeting with his Iranian counterpart.
Although Mr. Rouhani denounced the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and U.S. drones attacks in Pakistan and Yemen, he refrained from calling the Israeli government “Zionists,” as was often repeated by Mr. Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
U.S. officials said that Mr. Rouhani’s delegation turned down an offer for “an encounter” with President Obama on the sidelines of the UN session in New York.
The meeting between the two leaders would have been “too complicated” for the Iranians, a senior Obama administration official said.
“The Iranians have an internal dynamic that they have to manage, and the relationship with the United States is clearly quite different than the relationship that Iran has with other Western nations,” the official said.
During his own speech earlier on Tuesday, Mr. Obama said that the “difficult history” between the U.S. and Iran cannot be overcome “overnight.” “We can resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme,” he said.
“That can serve as a major step down a long road toward a different relationship - one based on mutual interests and mutual respect.” Mr. Obama tasked Secretary of State John Kerry discuss the nuclear issue with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Officials from five permanent members of UN Security Council and Germany are expected to begin negotiating with Iran in an informal meeting on Thursday in New York. It would be the highest-level direct US-Iranian contact since 1979.
Hours before Mr. Rouhani took to the state, Israeli officials confirmed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the country’s United Nations delegation to boycott Mr. Rouhani’s speech.
“When Iran’s leaders stop denying the Holocaust of the Jewish people, and stop calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and recognize Israel’s right to exist, the Israeli delegation will attend their addresses at the General Assembly,” Mr. Netanyahu’s spokesman, Ofir Gendelman wrote on the internet social media website Twitter.
Mr. Netanyahu, who will speak on October 1 at the week-long annual debate, is expected to tell the Assembly that Iran’s attempt to reconcile with the West is a “honey trap” to cover up uranium enrichment for a nuclear bomb.