Iran's new president Hassan Rohani
delivered his address at the UN General Assembly Tuesday,
insisting that his country posed no threat to the region or to the world.
The Iranian president listed what he did consider a threat, saying that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is a form of "structural violence" in which Palestinians are "deprived of the right of return" and in which "intuitional aggression" is implemented against the Palestinian people.
"Palestine is under occupation," he said. "The basic rights of the Palestinians are tragically violated, and they are deprived of the right of return and access to their homes, birthplace and homeland."
|Rohani addresses UNGA (Video: Reuters)|
Rohani referred to US President Barack Obama's
address in saying that if the US "refrains from falling for war mongering pressure groups... and recognizes the principles of international law … then peace is in reach."
He added he was prepared to engage in "time-bound and results-oriented" nuclear talks and did not seek to increase tensions with the United States.
"Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions," he said. "Our national interests make it imperative that we remove any and all reasonable concerns about Iran's peaceful nuclear program."
Rohani reiterated Iran's right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enriching uranium – a process that can be used to produce fuel for both weapons or energy.
He blasted international sanctions against Iran, comparing them to the widely criticized punitive measures against Iraq while the late Saddam Hussein was in power.
"These sanctions are violent, pure and simple," he told the UN General Assembly, adding that normal people, not political elites, ended up suffering because of them. "The negative impact is not nearly limited to the intended victims of sanctions."
He added that it was "an illusion, and extremely unrealistic, to presume that the peaceful nature of the nuclear program of Iran could be ensured through impeding the program via illegitimate pressures."
Rohani at UNGA (Photo: AFP) (Photo: Reuters) Photo: AFP
Rohani called his election over the summer a "wise choice of hope, rationality and moderation," and said every issue can be resolved through moderation, mutual respect and rejection of violence and extremism.
He proposed that the UN consider a new project, "The World Against Violence and Extremism" called WAVE and urged all nations and organizations to join and guide the world in this direction.
He welcomed Syria's acceptance of the international treaty to ban chemical weapons and said "access by extremist terrorist groups to such weapons is the greatest danger to the region."
The Iranian president also warned that the threat or use of force in Syria "will only lead to further exacerbation of violence and crisis in the region."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
responded to Iranian President Hassan Rohani in the UN General Assembly, saying "As expected, it was a hypocritical, cynical speech. Rohani condemned terror while the Iranian government terrorizes dozens of countries across the world."
Netanyahu added that though Rohani insisted that Iran's nuclear program had only civilian purposes, the IAEA determined there were indications that it had military purposes.
"The international community must test Iran by its actions rather than by its words. It's good that the Israeli delegation was not in the room," the prime minister noted, adding that the speech "had no practical suggestion to stop Iran's military nuclear program and no commitment to fulfil UN Security Council decisions. That exactly is the Iranian plan, to talk and buy time in order to advance Iran's capability to obtain nuclear weapons."
Earlier Tuesday, the prime minister has instructed Israeli
diplomats to leave the UN General Assembly when Iran's new president, Hassan Rohani, addresses the gathering and also said the world "should not be fooled" by signs of moderation from Tehran.
In a statement, Netanyahu said that despite a new Iranian "smile offensive," the policies of the Islamic republic remain the same. He accused Rohani of refusing to recognize the Holocaust.
"When Iran's leaders cease to deny the Jewish people's Holocaust and call for the destruction of the Jewish state, the Israeli delegation will listen to its speeches. Despite Iran's new president's 'smile offensive', their policy remains unchanged – just last week Rohani… refused to recognize the Holocaust as a historical fact."
Netanyahu said the world "should not be fooled" by signs of moderation from Tehran, voicing deep skepticism about Iran's new outreach to the West in saying it is merely a ploy to ease international sanctions while secretly developing nuclear weapon.
thinks soothing words and token actions will enable it to continue on its path to the bomb. Like North Korea before it, Iran will continue to work to have sanctions removed in return for cosmetic concessions while it continues to preserve its ability to quickly build a nuclear bomb," Netanyahu said.
After Rohani's speech, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said Rouhani was playing a "game of deception" in his speech. "We heard a lot of new rhetoric but zero new steps or even zero new commitments to meet the UN Security Council resolutions," Steinitz, Israeli representive at the UN forum in New York who was not present during Rohani's speech, told reporters after the Iranian president spoke.
Rohani met with the French leader Tuesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, but not with Obama, as Western nations explored whether conciliatory talk from the Middle Eastern leader offers a way out of the impasse over Iran's nuclear program.
Anticipation of any brief but historic encounter between President Rohani and Obama during the global meeting faded as US senior officials said a meeting proved to be too complicated for the Iranians. The officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the decision publicly.
It would have been the first encounter between US and Iranian leaders in 36 years.
Rohani also did not attend Tuesday's luncheon for world leaders hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Iran's English-language Press TV said he skipped the event because alcohol was being served there. Iranian leaders have avoided past ceremonies because of the presence of alcohol, which is forbidden under Islamic law.
When Obama spoke Tuesday morning, though Rohani was not seen there, Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif
was in attendance.
Zarif said on Twitter early Tuesday, "we have a historic opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue. 5+1 needs to adjust its posture commensurate with the new Iranian approach."
Obama welcomed the new Iranian government's pursuit of a "more moderate course," saying it should offer the basis for a breakthrough in nuclear talks. "The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested," he said during his speech.
Hollande, speaking before his meeting with Rohani, said he was open to dialogue with the recently elected leader, which he promised would be frank and direct. But he added that Rohani's conciliatory words must be backed by "concrete gestures" that show Iran
is not seeking nuclear weapons.
"For 10 years, France has been saying Iran can absolutely benefit from a civilian nuclear program, but it cannot work toward obtaining a nuclear weapon," Hollande told reporters.
Since taking office, Rohani has called for a new start in relations with the US and declared that Iran is not seeking a nuclear weapon. Tehran has consistently said its nuclear program has only peaceful, civilian uses.
The US has said all options are on the table, including a military strike, to thwart any attempt by Iran to have a nuclear weapon.
Iran's foreign minister is expected to meet on Thursday with US Secretary of State John Kerry and counterparts from the other permanent Security Council members, plus Germany, to discuss possibly reviving stalled negotiations over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Attila Somfalvi, AP, Reuters contributed to this report
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