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Iran's Rouhani calls for 'consistent voice' from U.S. on nuclear issue

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 24, 2013. REUTE
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 24, 2013. REUTE

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, expressed hope on Tuesday that U.S. President Barack Obama would not be swayed by "warmongering pressure groups" at home in dealing with the Iranian nuclear dispute and called for a consistent voice from Washington on the issue.

Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly hours after Obama addressed the annual gathering of world leaders, Rouhani said he was prepared to engage in "time-bound and results-oriented" nuclear talks and did not seek to increase tensions with the United States.

"I listened carefully to the statement made by President Obama today at the General Assembly," he said. "Commensurate with the political will of the leadership in the United States and hoping that they will refrain from following the short-sighted interest of warmongering pressure groups, we can arrive at a framework to manage our differences."

"To this end, equal footing, mutual respect and the recognized principles of international law should govern the interactions," he said. "Of course, we expect to hear a consistent voice from Washington."

A potential encounter at the United Nations between Obama and Rouhani failed to take place on Tuesday as the Iranians indicated it was too complicated, senior Obama administration officials said.

U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo was seated at the U.S. table while Rouhani spoke. Earlier, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was present for Obama's speech.

While his speech lacked the strident anti-Western rhetoric of predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's U.N. speeches, Rouhani offered no concessions. He repeated Tehran's position that Iran is not interested in atomic weapons.

"Nuclear weapon and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions," he said in his first U.N. speech since taking office in August.

While he avoided any suggestion that Israel had no right to exist, he sharply criticized the treatment of the Palestinians - albeit without naming Israel directly.

"Palestine is under occupation," he said. "The basic rights of the Palestinians are tragically violated, and they are deprived of the right of return and access to their homes, birthplace and homeland."

He also blasted the international sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program, which Western powers and their allies fear is aimed at developing the capability to produce atomic weapons.

"Contrary to the claims of those who pursue and impose them, it is not the states and the political elite that are targeted, but rather, it is the common people who are victimized by these sanctions," Rouhani told the 193-nation assembly.

"Let us not forget millions of Iraqis who, as a result of sanctions covered in international legal jargon, suffered and lost their lives, and many more who continue to suffer all through their lives," he said.

Iran is under U.S., European Union, U.N. and other sanctions due to its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

Rouhani warned that attempts to force Iran to abandon nuclear technology will fail because of the country's high level of technical know-how and scientific expertise.

"Nuclear knowledge in Iran has been domesticated now and the nuclear technology, inclusive of enrichment, has already reached industrial scale," he said.

"It is, therefore, an illusion, and extremely unrealistic, to presume that the peaceful nature of the nuclear program of Iran could be ensured through impeding the program via illegitimate pressures."

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Louis Charbonneau, Yeganeh Torbati, Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jim Loney)

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