Iran's Hassan Rowhani vows nuclear transparency to ease tension with US

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 3:43am


Iranian president-elect Hassan Rowhani said he will make the country's nuclear programme more transparent as he seeks to ease tension with the US and reduce "brutal" sanctions that have crippled the economy.

He ruled out any halt to the nuclear activity that has drawn UN sanctions but said he hoped an early deal could be reached to allay the fears of major powers.

The moderate cleric, who won outright victory in Friday's presidential election on the hopes of millions for an end to the economic hardship caused by Western sanctions, pledged greater transparency in the talks.

Rowhani, addressing his first press conference since winning the vote, said there would be no change in Iran's longstanding alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that has been the source of additional Western concern. But he said he would seek to thaw relations with the key Arab Gulf backers of the rebels fighting to oust Assad's regime for more than two years.

Rowhani, who led the nuclear negotiating team under reformist former president Mohammad Khatami from 2003 to 2005, rejected a return to the moratorium on uranium enrichment that Iran accepted at the time, saying: "This period is over."

The 64-year-old said the European Union and US sanctions against Iran's oil and banking sectors that have sent the economy into freefall were unjust, but promised talks to try to resolve the underlying issues. Iran will be "more transparent to show that its activities fall within the framework of international rules", he said. "The idea is to engage in more active negotiations."

Rowhani has repeatedly promised to restore diplomatic relations with the United States, broken off more than three decades ago after the storming of its embassy by Islamist students.

He has also expressed readiness for bilateral talks with Washington to allay its concerns that Tehran's nuclear programme is cover for a drive for a weapons capability. But he said those talks could not be without conditions.

"The US should not interfere in our internal affairs, recognise the rights of Iran including nuclear rights, and stop its unilateral policies and pressure," he said, adding: "The next government will not give up the legitimate rights of the country."

Rowhani said he would seek to mend difficult relations between Shiite Iran and Sunni-dominated Arab Gulf states, which have been further strained by the two-year conflict in Syria.

"Saudi Arabia is a brother and neighbour," he said, but added that there would be no let-up in Iran's support for long-standing ally Assad.