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Iranian President: 'Prudent Moderation' Ensures Bright Future

Hasan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, on Tuesday.
Brendan McDermid
Hasan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, on Tuesday.

In a break with his often times caustic predecessor, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani delivered a kind of ode to moderation during his first address at the United Nations General Assembly.

"Prudent moderation will ensure a bright future for the world," Rouhani said, adding that the "recent election in Iran represents a clear living example of the wise choice of hope, rationality and moderation."

During his speech, Rouhani repeated the word continually and he responded to thawing relations with the United States by saying that Iran was prepared to engage in nuclear negotiations under certain conditions.

Rouhani said Iran has only "peaceful purposes" in mind for its nuclear program, but it was willing to come to the negotiating table with "full transparency" to ensure international confidence in its program.

"Nuclear weapon and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions," Rouhani said. "Our national interests make it imperative that we remove any and all reasonable concerns about Iran's peaceful nuclear program."

Rouhani said, however, that the U.S. and the international community had to accept Iran's right to enrich uranium.

"Peace is within reach," Rouhani said.

Earlier today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the U.S. against the charm offensive. Like previous years, when former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke, he ordered the Israeli delegation to leave the room before Rouhani's speech.

The New York Times reports:

"'We will not be fooled by half-measures that merely provide a smoke screen for Iran's continual pursuit of nuclear weapons,' Mr. Netanyahu told reporters in Tel Aviv hours before Mr. Rouhani was to ascend the stage to speak before the General Assembly. "And the world should not be fooled either."

"An internal Israeli government document, published Tuesday by The Washington Post and verified by an Israeli official, discounts Mr. Rouhani's policy as 'smile but enrich,' and argues that Iran's goal is for 'minor concessions' that preserve its ability to 'rush forward' to produce nuclear weapons.' The document, and senior Israeli officials, point to Tehran's recent installation of advanced centrifuges and its continued denial of access to its nuclear facilities as evidence that nothing has changed on the ground. Iran denies that it is pursuing nuclear weapons and says its nuclear program is for civilian use."

All of that said, Rouhani also took a few shots at the United States, especially in regards to the deep sanctions — which he called "violent, pure and simple" — it has imposed on the country.

"Coercive economic and military policies and practices geared to the maintenance and preservation of old superiorities and dominations have been pursued in a conceptual mindset that negates peace, security, human dignity, and exalted human ideals," Rouhani said.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.