6 Aug 2013

Iran’s Rouhani wants talks, not threats, on nuclear issue

President Hassan Rouhani says he is confident the west’s fears over Iran’s nuclear programme can be allayed. Is this a delaying tactic or a sincere offer to negotiate?

Speaking in his first press conference following his inauguration on the weekend, President Rouhani said he was “seriously determined” to resolve his country’s dispute with the west over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

The “moderate” cleric said he was ready to enter “serious and substantive” negotiations on the issue, but added that the west must realise that a solution can be reached “solely through talks, not threats”.

“What matters to us is the practical policy and strategy of the United States,” President Rouhani said. “If the United States shows goodwill and intentions… and without any secret agenda, if they approach this way, then the way will be open.”

Read more: What have we learnt about Iran's Hassan Rouhani?

No more delay

Before Mr Rouhani appeared in front of cameras from the Iranian capital, Russia’s deputy foreign minister said talks between Iran and other world powers over its nuclear programme “cannot be delayed any longer.”

“This round (of nuclear negotiations), given all the circumstances, must be held by mid-September,” Sergei Ryabkov said. “This cannot be delayed any longer.

“As soon as the configuration of the new Iranian delegation is clear, the group of six can quickly make a proposal and organise for this round in the next four to five weeks. There is a lot of reason for optimism.”

Economic crisis

Iran has long claimed its nuclear ambitions are purely for civilian purposes, but western powers have raised concerns that the Middle Eastern country is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Sanctions imposed on Iran’s oil exports, aimed at turning off funds to Iran’s nuclear programme, have plunged the country into economic crisis. Solving this crisis is at the top of President Rouhani’s agenda.

With the departure of confrontational former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the White House has indicated its willingness to negotiate with the new leader.

Read more: Iran's new president - the key questions