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Iran's Rohani hopeful of deal on nuclear programme

Iranian president-elect Hassan Rohani pledged on Monday to follow a “path of moderation” and promised greater openness over the country’s nuclear programme in his first press conference since his election victory on Friday.


Iran’s newly elected president Hassan Rohani said on Monday he will follow a “path of moderation” and called for greater transparency on the country’s nuclear programme, but ruled out suspending uranium enrichment.

“Our nuclear programmes are completely transparent. But we are ready to show greater transparency and make clear for the whole world that the steps of the Islamic Republic of Iran are completely within international frameworks,” he said, speaking at his first press conference since his election on Friday.

He also said a new opportunity had been created for friendly relations between the Islamic Republic and the world, and he hoped all countries would take the opportunity to build friendly relations.

“Your government ... will follow up national goals ... in the path of saving the country’s economy, revive ethics and constructive interaction with the world through moderation,” he said. “I hope that all countries use this opportunity,” he said.

Nuclear sheikh

Known as the "diplomat sheikh", Rohani was Iran's top nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005 during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, when Tehran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment to allay Western fears that the nuclear programme may hide military objectives.

"Chirac deal could have answered the nuclear question"

Answering a question from FRANCE 24 special correspondent Pascale Bourgaux, Rohani used a 2005 plan drawn up by Iranian officials and then French president Jacques Chirac as a potential solution to the nuclear problem.

“I think we have a lot of ways to create an atmosphere of confidence,” Rohani said. “One of them is the agreement we came to with Chirac [...] when we reached an agreement on how to create universal confidence and still continue the enrichment of uranium in Iran.

“That agreement with Mr Chirac could have been the final agreement to the nuclear question; the Germans said they were in agreement too. But unfortunately the British, under pressure from the United States, would not agree, and so the deal was not finalised.”

Promise of change

In one of his first acts after being declared winner of the vote, the 64-year-old met with supreme leader and ultimate decision-maker Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday before heading to pay homage at the mausoleum of late founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Later, speaking before a crowd of supporters, he pledged to bring about "the change" demanded by Iranians, whose lives under outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were affected by harsh international economic sanctions imposed to force Tehran to curb its controversial atomic drive.

"God willing, this is the beginning of a move that will bring the change demanded by the people in the fields of economy, culture, social and politics," Rohani said in remarks reported by the ISNA news agency.

But Iran's woes will not be resolved "overnight," Rohani said, urging the conservative-dominated parliament to pursue better "cooperation" with the government – a relationship that was soured during Ahmadinejad's era.

World watches on

Friday's election, which saw a turnout of nearly 73% of some 50.5 million eligible voters, will see Rohani succeed Ahmadinejad in early August.

Rohani defeated his divided conservative rivals by securing the backing of reformists and by promising tactful foreign policy to defuse tensions with the region and the international community, as well as more freedoms at home.

His election drew positive but guarded reaction from the international community, with the United States saying it was prepared to engage Rohani's administration in direct talks aimed at reaching a "diplomatic solution" to the nuclear standoff.

Russia, which has enjoyed better ties with Tehran than has the United States, also said it was looking forward to enhanced cooperation.

Israel, the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power which has not ruled out a military strike against Tehran, saw little chance of a radical change in Iran's nuclear policy and urged the West to apply continued pressure.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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