Rouhani 'breaks ice' despite missed handshake
AFPUNITED NATIONS/TEHRAN -- Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani has broken the ice by reaching out to Washington, a reformist newspaper said Thursday, while Iranian conservatives too hailed his charm offensive at the U.N. General Assembly.
September 27, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
Aside from expressing the desire for a speedy resolution of the dispute over Iran's contested nuclear program, Rouhani while in the U.S. also condemned the Holocaust — a radical shift from the stance of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The reformist daily Etemad praised Rouhani for using his speech to the General Assembly to “break the ice” with Washington after the countries severed diplomatic relations in 1980, a year after the Islamic revolution in Iran toppled the U.S.-backed shah.
The longstanding gap between the United States and Iran was evident, however, in the failure to orchestrate at least a symbolic handshake between Rouhani and U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
Rouhani, in his speech to the Assembly, said Iran poses “absolutely no threat to the world.”
If Obama rejects “the short-sighted interest of warmongering pressure groups, we can arrive at a framework to manage our differences,” the Iranian leader said, insisting that his country's nuclear drive is “exclusively peaceful.”
He added that the international community had to accept Iran's nuclear activity, which Western nations say hides an attempt to reach a nuclear bomb capacity.
Rouhani, voted into office in June elections, went further in comments to the Washington Post on Wednesday, saying that he wanted to reach an agreement on the nuclear issue within three months and has full backing to broker a deal from Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
“If it's three months that would be Iran's choice, if it's six months that's still good. It's a question of months not years,” Rouhani said.
“If the West recognizes Iran's legal rights then there's really no hurdle in creating full transparency that's necessary to settle this case,” he said.
His speech to the Assembly has been welcomed in Iran both by moderates and by conservatives.
“Rouhani expressed the will of the nation,” said Tehran's popular former mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi, a moderate.
Iranian armed forces chief of staff General Hassan Firouzabadi, who is close to Khamenei, hailed Rouhani's “firm and revolutionary position.”