Britain would welcome Iran back into the international community, said David Cameron on Monday, providing the pariah nation abandons ambitions to develop nuclear weaponry.
Hassan Rouhani, a supposed reformist, was elected to the office of Iranian president on Saturday, marking the end of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s difficult tenure characterised by unpredictability and confrontation.
Rouhani spoke of a thawing of relations with the west after his victory, reasserting his openness to build relations with the rest of the world. However, the fledgling leader has yet to speak directly on the truculent issue of nuclear arms, a suspected ambition of the Iranian state under Ahmedinejad, though Rouhani did campaign on the pledge of easing international sanctions imposed due to the country's nuclear programme.
Speaking in Northern Ireland ahead of the G8 summit, Cameron said he was open to signals of reconciliation from Tehran, insisting that London would was ready to engage in dialogue.
"I've always believed that the right approach on Iran is to engage, to make a clear offer to the Iranians that there is a different path for them," said Cameron, adding: "If they don't go down the path of nuclear weapons, then they can become a full part of the international community.”
"Obviously, we will have to see how the new Iranian government reacts to that, but Britain will stand with America and others in continuing to make that offer."
Cameron’s words echoed a statement from the Foreign Office following Rouhani’s election, which called for the president 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.”
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that sanctions imposed on Iran by the west should remain, despite Rouhani's victory.
"The international community should not fall into wishful thinking and be tempted to ease pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear programme," said Netanyahu, adding: "Iran will be judged on its actions. If it insists on continuing to develop its nuclear programme the answer needs to be clear - stopping its nuclear programme by any means."
Israel's President Shimon Peres told Reuters that he hope new leadership in Tehran would help bring about change. "It will be better, I am sure, and that is why the people voted for him," he said.