Iran's Hassan Rouhani Says He Is Ready To Talk To UK And US, But Imposes Strict Preconditions

Iran's newly-elected president Hassan Rouhani has signalled he is ready to talk to both Britain and the US to "remove the problems between us," and repeated claims that Britain allegedly blocked a 2005 nuclear agreement with Iran, under pressure from the US.

Rouhani, a moderate cleric, was elected this weekend with a clear 51% majority, beating conservative Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf and hardline nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

David Cameron has said Britain would welcome Iran back into the international community, providing the pariah nation abandons ambitions to develop nuclear weaponry.

Hasan Rouhani, stands in front of a portrait of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini

Asked about renewed relations with the UK, Rouhani said at his first press conference with international media: "This applies to all countries with whom we have problems at present, we recognise those problems, and we will try to remove those problems.

"What we want is mutual respect, the rights of Iranian nation should be consider, as should both of our mutual interests. Through wisdom and logic, we will be able to removed the problems we have with those countries, and the government of Britain is not an exception to this."

He said: "Our nuclear agreement in 2005 [to convert all of its enriched uranium to fuel rods, making it impossible to use it for nuclear weapons] could have been the final solution. The French and the Germans agreed, but Britain, under American pressure, couldn't agree."

He signalled that he would be prepared to accept a similar agreement again, saying: "The same agreement as I had with President Chirac can be one of solutions to nuclear issue under which enrichment continues."

Seyed Hossein Mousavian, who had led Iran’s nuclear negotiating team in 2004 and 2005, revealed last year that Britain had been under pressure from George W Bush to block the agreement, because it refused to countenance any Iranian enrichment capability, regardless of the circumstances.

Rouhani also answered questions on the current conflict in Syria.

" The ones who should decide future of Syria are Syrian people themselves. We're opposed to terrorism and foreign interference," he said, despite reports that Iran itself is preparing to send 4,000 troops to aid President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

The new president smiled knowingly when a US broadcaster asked him if he would be prepared to engage in "direct dialogue" with the US.

"It's a very hard question you ask," he said. "The relation between Iran is very complicated, nothing will be easy.

"There is a very old wound there but we need to find a way of healing this injury. we don't want to see further tension, so we have to act with intelligence.

"Both nations have to consider their futures and find solutions to past issues. But speaking to America should be on an equal footing, these talks must have certain conditions that should be met.

"America must make clear that they will never interfere in the domestic affairs of Iran, as in the 1981 Algiers Accords. All the rights of Iranian nation, including nuclear rights, have to be recognised and the bullying policies need to be scrapped.

"That way, the scene will be set, the way will be paved, and good intentions will be obvious. But let me make it clear that his government will never risk the rights of the Iranian nation."

He said that he sensed his election victory had changed some of the international conversation regarding Iran. "We will pursue a policy of constructive interaction with other nations. The situation has changed in that sense.

"The media, the politicians are looking at Iran in a more productive way. This atmosphere will turn into a new opportunity, and i'm hoping relations with the world will be better."

For now, Rouhani said his priority will be better relationships with neighbouring countries and Islamic states, and gaining consensus across political factions in Iran. "The future government will be a government that will be ultra-factionals, from moderate, principalists and reformists.

"There will be no restrictions. I don't like the word coalition, it will go beyond factions and be based on meritocracy."

He also called on the international community to take a revised look at sanctions against Iran. "We don't wish to see new sanctions, and we will seek to alleviate existing ones, and then roll them back.

"The issue of sanctions a dilemma. We are all aware of the brutal effect that sanctions are having and the people of Iran have done nothing wrong to deserve them.

"We will begin to prepare an economic revival, with a legal framework for conducting and supporting business and industry in Iran. We want an economic revolution and that is not the path we are currently treading on."

An FCO spokesperson said that Britain will ask Rouhani to "use the opportunity to set Iran on a different course for the future: addressing international concerns about Iran's nuclear programme, taking forward a constructive relationship with the international community, and improving the political and human rights situation for the people of Iran.‪”

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