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Continued: Iran's newly elected president urges 'path of moderation' but highlights limits

  • Article by: ALI AKBAR DAREINI , Associated Press
  • Last update: June 17, 2013 - 3:05 PM

Although the 64-year-old Rowhani cannot directly set key policies, he might be able to use the strength of his landslide victory and his influential connections, including with former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, to shape opinions. Rowhani served as Iran's first nuclear envoy from 2003-2005 during a period of intense deal-making with Europeans.

Rowhani's aides have said he proposed an accord in 2005 with then-French President Jacques Chirac to allow uranium enrichment in exchange for the highest level of monitoring by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency. The deal did not gain support from other countries such as Britain and the U.S.

In an interview last year with the Iranian magazine Mehr Nameh, Rowhani said he also received a U.S. proposal in 2004, carried by the head of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency at the time, Mohamed ElBaradei, for direct dialogue on nuclear and other issues. Rowhani said he passed along the offer to the ruling clerics and "the decision was that we should not negotiate with the U.S."

Rowhani has not given any clear details on his advice for the current talks, which face pressure from factions in the Israel and the U.S. urging greater consideration of military options.

But Rowhani appears to favor the general contours of the reported French-backed deal for greater openness as the way to ease Western sanctions over Iran's nuclear efforts. The sanctions have slashed oil revenue and contributed to a spike in inflation. "If sanctions have any benefits, they will only benefit Israel," he said at the news conference.

He outlined "step by step" measures to reassure the West about Iran's nuclear ambitions. The West suspects that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon. Iranian leaders, including Rowhani, insist Iran seeks reactors only for energy and medical applications.

Enriched uranium is used as fuel for energy and research reactors but it can be further boosted to make a nuclear warhead.

"The first step will be showing greater transparency. We are ready to show greater transparency and make clear that the Islamic Republic of Iran's actions are totally within international frameworks," he said. "The second step is promoting mutual confidence. We'll take measures in both fields. The first goal is that no new sanctions are imposed. Then, that the (existing) sanctions are reduced."

Rowhani, though, reaffirmed the positions that have contributed to the logjam in talks so far: Iran's insistence that Washington "should recognize all of Iran's rights, including the nuclear rights."

He further added that any hope for one-on-one dialogue with the U.S. depends on the improbable starting point already set out by the ruling clerics. "The Americans need to specify that they will never intervene in Iran's internal affairs," Rowhani said.

"It's not easy," he said. "There is an old wound. This wound could be treated through prudence. We will not seek increasing tensions. Wisdom requires that the two nations and the two governments look to the future."

On Syria, he said the ultimate responsibility to resolve the more than two-year-old civil war should be in the hands of the "Syrian people."

"We are opposed to foreign intervention," he said. "We hope peace and tranquility will return to Syria through cooperation with countries of the region and world."

Rowhani formally takes office in August. In the meantime, it appears Ahmadinejad's political foes could be plotting a payback, underscoring the often cutthroat nature of internal Iranian affairs.

Iran's official news agency said a criminal court summoned Ahmadinejad over a lawsuit filed by the country's parliament speaker and others.

The report gave no further details, but Ahmadinejad and the speaker, Ali Larijani, have waged political feuds for years. The court has set a November date for Ahmadinejad's appearance, it said.

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