TEHRAN: Iran’s new President Hassan Rowhani said yesterday that Tehran will not give up “one iota” of its nuclear rights, echoing his hardline predecessor, after the UN atomic watchdog urged improved cooperation.
The comments come ahead of meeting later this month between his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on restarting negotiations on the Islamic republic’s disputed nuclear ambitions.
“Our government will not give up one iota of its absolute rights” on the nuclear issue, said Rowhani, a reputed moderate, repeating a mantra frequently used by his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In a live interview on state television, Rowhani said that the time for resolving Iran’s nuclear dispute with the West was limited, and urged the world community to seize the opportunity of his election.
“The world must know completely that this period of time for resolving the nuclear issue will not be unlimited. We have a specified period of time,” he said.
“The world must also use this period of time and this opportunity that our people created in this election. We will also use this opportunity. God willing, I am hopeful we can, step by step, solve this problem.”
Himself a former nuclear negotiator, Rowhani yesterday did not elaborate on efforts to resolve concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme, on which all final decisions rest with the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
But he warned pressure would not make Iran abandon its rights.
“The West must understand that it will not obtain any result by threats and pressure,” he stressed.
Rowhani added that after the Zarif-Ashton meeting in New York, nuclear negotiations would “continue in another place with the 5+1,” which groups the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.
Under Ahmadinejad, the Supreme National Security Council was directly in charge of the talks, with its hardline secretary Saeed Jalili leading Iranian negotiators in several rounds of fruitless negotiations.
Jalili was yesterday replaced by decorated admiral Ali Shamkhani, who served as defence minister under reformist president Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005.
While being replaced as SNSC secretary, Jalili is not expected to leave the council, as he, along with Rowhani, are both special representatives of Khamenei to the council.