AFP — Sept 24, 2013
In his first speech on the world stage, Mr Rouhani condemned international sanctions against Iran and also criticised America’s use of drones.
But he said if Mr Obama rejects “the short-sighted interest of warmongering pressure groups, we can arrive at a framework to manage our differences.”
He said he was prepared to enter into talks over Iran’s nuclear program “immediately”, saying his country’s position that its nuclear drive is “exclusively peaceful.”
“Nuclear weapons 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.
Since Mr Rouhani was elected president, the centrist cleric has called for “constructive interaction” with the world, a dramatic shift in tone from the strident anti-Western and anti-Israeli rhetoric of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, in the speech he made no new concrete gestures to suggest Iran was willing to give up its military nuclear ambitions.
Mr Rouhani spoke a few hours after Mr Obama told the assembly that he wanted a “meaningful agreement” with Iran if it acted to end international concerns over its nuclear program.
Mr Rouhani said that the international community had to accept Iran’s nuclear activity, which Western nations say hides an attempt to reach a nuclear bomb capacity.
The UN Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Iran over its uranium enrichment.
But Mr Rouhani said it is “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,” labelling the sanctions “violence, pure and simple”.
Later, speaking to CNN, he broke with the stand point of his predecessor to say he accepted that the Nazis committed a “reprehensible” crime against the Jewish people during the Holocaust.
“I am not a historian and when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust it is the historians that should reflect,” Mr Rouhani said.
“But in general I can tell you that any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime the Nazis created towards the Jews, is reprehensible and condemnable,” he said, according to CNN’s tranlation of his comments.
Israeli officials had sharply criticized Mr Rouhani, a moderate cleric who has made diplomatic overtures to the West, for failing to renounce rhetoric by his hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that expressed doubt about the Holocaust.
Earlier, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed Mr Rouhani’s UN speech as hypocritical and accused Iranian forces of participating in the slaughter of civilians in Syria and carrying out terrorist attacks around the world. He also said Mr Rouhani offered no plans to halt his nuclear program.
Israel believes Iran is developing nuclear weapons. “This is precisely the Iranian intention, to talk and buy time in order to advance its ability to achieve nuclear weapons,” Mr Netanyahu said.
There had been speculation that Mr Obama and Mr Rouhani could meet at a lunch organized by UN leader Ban Ki-moon, but Mr Rouhani did not attend.
A senior US official said that an encounter had proved “too complicated” for the Iranian side.
Mr Rouhani did meet French President Francois Hollande who also said in his UN speech that Iran must take “concrete” measures on its nuclear program to reassure the international community.
Edited by Bonnie Malkin