TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s president-elect believes it’s possible to strike a deal that would allow the Islamic Republic to keep enriching uranium while assuring the West it will not produce a nuclear weapon.
Hasan Rowhani also said his government would look for a win-win deal to resolve disputes with the United States, following three decades of estrangement between the two nations.
His remarks came in an interview recorded four months ago and rerun on Iranian state TV on Friday. The broadcast appeared to be intended to underline his pledge to follow a “path of moderation” and pursue greater openness over Iran’s nuclear program.
Rowhani, Iran’s former top nuclear negotiator, won a landslide victory in the June 14 presidential election. He is set to take office in August, when he will replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Although Iran’s president cannot set policy on major decisions such as the nuclear program, he can influence views by the ruling clerics. Rowhani is considered a relative moderate but also has deep ties to Iran’s Islamic establishment. In his campaign, he said he favors international outreach and efforts to ease sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program.
In the interview, Rowhani suggested that under his presidency, Iran would seek to convince the U.S. and its allies that dialogue — and not sanctions — are the way forward.
“We have always told the West that we are ready for confidence building,” he said.
On the issue of stalled nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers, Rowhani acknowledged “no practical results were achieved” and stressed that “a deal would represent a practical result.”
The six — U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — should work with the U.N. nuclear agency, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, to draw up a formula, Rowhani said.
The formula would allow Iran to keep enriching uranium — a process that is a possible path to nuclear warheads — while offering proof that it wasn’t leading to nuclear arms.
For Iran, the goal is to find relief from international sanctions that have wreaked havoc on the country’s economy. The West suspects Iran intends to build nuclear weapons and has imposed several rounds of draconian measures to force Tehran to account for the program.
Iran denies it is seeking to develop an atomic weapon and insists its nuclear ambitions are purely peaceful — for generating power and medical research.
“We should reach a point where the West feels that continuing the sanctions would not be to their benefit and that there is a better solution,” Rowhani said.
President Barack Obama and other Western leaders remain publicly committed to diplomat efforts though they stress military options against Iranian nuclear sites are not off the table.
“I don’t believe in war. War is not to our benefits. It’s not to America’s benefits. I don’t think that the Americans are after war at this point,” Rowhani said. “If Americans show sincerity and are ready to resolve the problems between the two countries, a win-win deal is possible.”