Iranian President Hasan Rouhani has told the UN that his country is ready for talks about its nuclear program. However, amid signs of lingering tension, a top level meeting with his US counterpart did not take place.
Addressing the UN General Assembly on Tuesday afternoon, Rouhani said Iran was prepared to engage in "time-bound and results-oriented" talks on the nuclear issue.
He reiterated that nuclear weapons were not in keeping with Iran's military strategy and were not in line with the country's Islamic culture. "Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions," Rouhani said.
The president, who assumed office in August, condemned four rounds of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council against Iran over its uranium enrichment. Iran insists its program is peaceful, while Western nations say it is a front for developing nuclear weapons. Regarding such suspicions, Rouhani said it was "an illusion, and extremely unrealistic, to presume that the peaceful nature of the nuclear program of Iran could be ensured through impeding the program via illegitimate pressures."
Rouhani had opened his speech saying that Iran posed "absolutely no threat to the peace and security of the world," instead insisting that his country was a "harbinger for peace and security."
Criticism of sanctions, violence
While the Iranian president's words were widely scrutinized for signs of a thaw in relations with the West, analysts said Rouhani was also keen to appeal to a domestic audience.
Rouhani condemned international sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, comparing them to punitive measures against Iraq at the time of Saddam Hussein, which at the time were widely criticized.
"These sanctions are violent, pure and simple," he told the assembly, adding that ordinary citizens rather than political elites were the true victims.
He also condemned the use of militarism "to subjugate others" and referred to "structural violence" against the people of Palestine.
Speaking earlier at the conference, US President Barack Obama had welcomed the moderate course that Rouhani appeared to be adopting more widely. "The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested," he said.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who had met with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif before Rouhani's speech, welcomed a "new tone."
French President Francois Hollande said he was open to dialogue with the new leader, but added that "concrete gestures" were needed to show Iran was not pursuing the acquisition of nuclear weapons.
Meeting proves too difficult
US officials said they had offered to set up an informal meeting between Obama and Rouhani, but that this had proved "too complicated" for the Iranians.
"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," a senior administration official said according to the DPA news agency.
However, the official said that US Secretary of State John Kerry said he would discuss the issue of Iran's nuclear program with Zarif during the assembly.
rc/ccp (AFP, AP, Reuters)