TEHRAN- Ruling out nuclear rollback , Iran’s president-elect, Hassan Rowhani , expressed the hope on Monday that his country could reach a new agreement with major powers over its disputed nuclear programme. He said a deal should be reached through more transparency and mutual trust.
Rowhani , a moderate-conservative cleric who was declared winner of Iran’s presidential election on Saturday, also described as unfair and unjustified sanctions imposed against the Islamic republic over the nuclear issue. “The idea is to engage in more active negotiations with the 5+1 as the nuclear issue cannot be resolved without negotiations,” Rowhani said, referring to the UN Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany.
The 64-year-old Rowhani’s victory raised hopes of an easing of strained ties with Western nations, but he used his first news conference on Monday to rule out a halt to his country’s controversial enrichment of uranium. “This period is over,” Rowhani said, referring to international demands for an end to the enrichment. He said there were many ways to build trust with the West as Iran would be more transparent to show that its activities fall within the framework of international rules.
Rowhani had previously vowed to restore diplomatic ties with the United States which cut relations in the aftermath of the 1979 seizure of the US embassy by Islamist students.
He was helped to victory in Friday’s election with the backing of reformists, with thousands of people taking to the streets to celebrate and world powers expressing cautious optimism.
Tehran has been engaged since 2006 with the P5+1 - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany - over its nuclear work.
Failure to reach an agreement in the negotiations has seen the Islamic republic repeatedly slapped with international sanctions that have hit its economy hard.
“Threats and sanctions are not effective,” Rowhani told reporters on Monday. “The sanctions are unfair, the Iranian people are suffering and our (nuclear) activities are legal. These sanctions are illegal and only benefit Israel,” said Rowhani who is due to replace President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in early August.
Western powers and Israel believe the programme is being used to develop an atomic bomb, but Tehran has always insisted it is for purely peaceful purposes.
Rowhani declared that his incoming government would seek to improve ties with regional rival Saudi Arabia, tarnished over differences about Syria’s civil war.
“The priority of my government is to strengthen relations with neighbours, the countries of the Persian Gulf and Arab ones that are of strategic importance and our brothers,” said Rowhani . “Saudi Arabia is a brother and neighbor with which we have historic, cultural and geographical relations,” the moderate-conservative cleric said. “I hope the next government will have very good relations with our neighbours, including Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Ties between Shiite-ruled Iran and Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim kingdom, have deteriorated in recent months, mostly due to their opposing positions on the 27-month Syria conflict.
Tehran backs the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which is dominated by the Alawite sect of Shiite Islam, while Riyadh supports Sunni-led rebels who are fighting to oust him.