Washington: Iran’s new President Hassan Rowhani has told a US television audience he is hopeful of a diplomatic breakthrough over Tehran’s nuclear weapons programme, insisting his country had no intention of developing weapons of mass destruction.
Speaking before a visit to the UN in New York, Rowhani said his government had “full power and authority” from the supreme leader to negotiate over the nuclear programme, which the US fears is close to creating a bomb.
“The problem won’t be from our side,” said Rowhani. “We have sufficient political latitude to solve this problem.
“Under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever,” he added in initial clips of the interview with NBC. Though Iran has insisted it has peaceful intentions for its nuclear programme, Rowhani’s reassurances on US television before his trip to New York will help foster hopes in the administration that more moderate political forces are prevailing in Tehran. President Obama and Rowhani recently exchanged letters and may meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next week.
Rowhani appeared to pay tribute to Obama’s handling of the Syria crisis, saying it was not a sign of weakness to seek diplomatic rather than military solutions in such cases. “We consider war a weakness and any government that decides on peace we look on with respect,” he said. He declined to comment on Iran’s role in the deal over Syrian chemical weapons but said: “We are one of the countries in the region that seek peace and stability and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.” White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “I think it’s fair to say that the president believes there is an opportunity for diplomacy when it comes to the issues that have presented challenges to the US and our allies with regards to Iran. And we hope that the Iranian government takes advantage of this opportunity.”