Rouhani: First Presser on US, Reforms, Nukes

June 17, 2013

      On June 17, president-elect Hassan Rouhani called for new ways “to build trust” with the international community on Iran’s controversial nuclear program. Rouhani, in his first press conference, said both the United States and Iran need to find a way to heal "a very old wound.” He spoke expansively on domestic issues and foreign policy, promising to follow the “path of moderation and justice, not extremism.” The following are excerpts with a link to the broadcast dubbed in English.

The United States and Foreign Policy
            “Relations between Iran and the United States are a complicated and difficult issue. It's nothing easy. This is a very old wound that is there, and we need to think about how to heal this injury. We don't want to see more tension. Wisdom tells us both countries need to think more about the future and try to sit down and find solutions to past issues and rectify things… [Talks] should be based on mutual respect and interests, and should be [held] on equal footing…
            “The Americans must expressly state that they will never interfere in Iran’s domestic affairs. Secondly, all rights of the nation need to be recognized by the Americans… Unilateral bullying policies need to be scrapped… [If these conditions are met] the ground will be paved for settlement… But everyone should realize that the future government will definitely defend the rights of the Iranian people. We will never dispense with that. We are prepared to see tensions alleviated. If we see goodwill we can also take some confidence building measures…”
            “We have to enhance mutual trust between Iran and other countries... There is a fresh opportunity for interaction on the global level.”
Syria and Regional Issues
            “My government’s priority in foreign policy is to have friendly, close relations with all neighbors. We will have very close relations with our 15 neighboring countries… based on mutual respect and interests.”  
            “The final decision-maker about the fate of Syria is the Syrian nation… We are opposed to foreign intervention [in Syria]. We hope peace and tranquility will return to Syria through the co-operation with countries of the region and world.”
            “The Persian Gulf region and the Arab countries are strategically important both in terms of politics and economics. The Gulf states are our neighbors and brothers, but Saudi Arabia in addition to being our brother and neighbor hosts the Muslim kiblah [referring to Islam’s holiest site, the Kaaba] and we have highly close cultural, historical and regional ties with each other
Nuclear Program
            “Our program is transparent, but we can take more steps to make it clear to the world that our nuclear program is within international regulations… The solution for moving forward on the nuclear issue is thus transparency and mutual respect.”
            “Basically, negotiations with P5+1 [the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia] will hopefully be more dynamic. We believe that that the nuclear issue will be solved only through talks, not sanctions and threats. We need dialog and mutual confidence. We will use past experiences. The basic rights of Iranians will be considered and government will work to gradually remove these brutal sanctions.
            “We are in a new and special situation now. There are many more confidence building measures that we can take. In 2005 we came to a final agreement as to how to win international trust… Enrichment will continue… We have many ways of building confidence other than suspending enrichment.”
            “The Iranian nation has not done anything wrong to deserve these sanctions… If sanctions have any benefits, it will only benefit Israel. It has no benefits for others.”
“Making use of the lever of sanctions, this is not the right time for that. ... Even in the West, they are facing economic problems and dilemmas, and they themselves know the sanctions are to the detriment of the West.”
            “The basic solution [for high inflation] is to activate production, increase production and funnel investments in the right direction, direct liquidity to production units. We have sufficient investment, but these need to be led in the right direction. The banks and financial institutions need to be able to provide the right sort of capital, so there needs to be reforms in banks, they need incentives. Production is not just industry and agriculture but also tourism which can also generate jobs.”
            “On increasing this minimum wage and helping remove the problems [of the poor]… wages need to be increased in proportion with the inflation rate. This problem needs to be tackled, and the government will try to put the law into effect.”
Domestic Politics and Social Policy
            The future government will include “moderates, principlists and reformists. There will be no restrictions. I don't like the word coalition, it will go beyond factions and be based on meritocracy.”
            “This will be a government of hope. All legal and rightful demands of all groups and factions will be considered. It is my duty to implement the basic law.”
            “Any kind of syndicate or guild needs to be activated based on law… The running of social affairs needs to be assigned to the guilds and syndicates themselves.”