Last updated: 27 September, 2013

Landmark nuclear talks with US and Iran open

President Hassan Rouhani said Friday that Iran would present a plan next month to resolve concerns over its nuclear program and vowed never to deviate from promises to the West.

Iran’s new president was closing a hectic week at the United Nations where his foreign minister held landmark talks with the United States.

At a closing news conference, Rouhani said that Iran would present a proposal in talks with six major powers scheduled for October 15-16 in Geneva.

“Iran will prepare that plan and will present it in Geneva. We hope it will serve as an even more effective step to settle the nuclear issue,” Rouhani said.

Rouhani said he hoped to resolve the nuclear row in a “short period of time,” a day after his foreign minister said that major powers had set a goal of a deal within one year.

The soft-spoken cleric swept to power in June, succeeding the firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on promises to ease tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, which has triggered a crippling US-led campaign of sanctions on Iran.

Western nations and especially Israel, which has not ruled out an attack on Iran, have voiced fear that the clerical regime’s sensitive uranium work is a covert attempt to build a nuclear bomb.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has branded Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Israeli officials frequently cite Rouhani’s past remark that Iran moved ahead with work on a uranium enrichment site in Isfahan while he served as nuclear negotiator a decade ago.

Rouhani rejected the allegations of duplicity, saying he had openly told European officials that Iran would complete the Isfahan facility and had cooperated with the UN atomic agency.

“We have never chosen deceit as a path. We have never chosen secrecy,” Rouhani told the news conference.

“We have acted transparently. What we say today is what we will remain committed to,” he said.

“We say explicitly that we do not seek a bomb. We say explicitly that we believe the building of a bomb is dangerous for us, for our region.”

Rouhani said that Iran would hold true to promises made in talks with the six powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

“We will never deviate from our commitments,” he said. “We want to provide more assurances if necessary to the world that our program will remain peaceful.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took part in talks with the six powers on Thursday after which he met separately with US Secretary of State John Kerry, one of the highest-level interactions between two countries since the 1979 Islamic revolution toppled the pro-US shah.

Iran’s economy in worse shape than thought

Rouhani’s latest remarks come after the UN atomic agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said it had “very constructive” talks with Iran.

Herman Nackaerts, the chief inspector for the agency, met in Vienna with Iran’s new envoy and said substantive talks would begin on October 28.

The IAEA is pressing Iran to give it access to documents and people so it can investigate allegations that Iran has been working on a nuclear bomb.

Western nations — in allegations likely based on foreign intelligence — have alleged that Iran literally bulldozed evidence at one key site, Parchin.

Iran wants to see a quick easing of US-led economic sanctions that have sharply curtailed its exports of oil and isolated the country from the world’s banking system.

In a speech to a gathering of the Non-Aligned Movement, Rouhani denounced unilateral sanctions as “illegal” and “short-sighted.”

Speaking later at his press conference, Rouhani acknowledged that Iran’s economic woes were more severe than he had realized.

“What I see today is a little worse than what I said or thought existed before, but we are all hopeful about the future,” he said.

He pledged that his new government would be “fully transparent” about economic data and release a report on Iran’s conditions within 100 days of his August 3 inauguration.