Last updated: 20 November, 2013

Cameron makes first UK call to Iranian president in over a decade

President Hassan Rouhani in a telephone call with British Prime Minister David Cameron stressed Tehran’s firm right to pursue a peaceful nuclear programme, Iranian media reported Wednesday.

Cameron’s call on Tuesday to Rouhani, the first such high-level exchange in a decade, came on the eve of a new round of talks in Geneva between world powers and Iran on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

“As Iran is determined that its nuclear activities will remain peaceful, it will strongly defend its nuclear rights,” the official IRNA news agency reported Rouhani as telling Cameron.

“We will accept no discrimination on this issue. The language of respect must replace that of threats and sanctions,” he added.

Downing Street confirmed that Cameron and Rouhani had discussed the talks between world powers and Iran on Tehran’s nuclear programme, the next round of which starts in Geneva on Wednesday.

Cameron “underlined the necessity of Iran comprehensively addressing the concerns of the international community about their nuclear programme, including the need for greater transparency”, a Downing Street statement said.

IRNA said Rouhani also held talks on the telephone with Chinese President Xi Jinping, telling him Tehran was seeking “an accord which preserves its rights and shows that the Iranian nuclear programme is totally peaceful.”

He called for China to oppose “excessive demands of certain countries,” referring to France which took a tough stand at the last round of talks in Geneva at the start of November.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani, meanwhile, insisted in a speech to MPs that the Islamic republic would fully defend “its nuclear rights” in Geneva.

And before leaving Rome for Geneva, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters that a deal “depends to what degree (world powers) are ready to respect Iran’s rights.”