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September 24, 2013

Rouhani: Iran Desires Peaceful Nuclear Program

by VOA News

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has reiterated his country's long-held position that Iran has a right to pursue a nuclear program for peaceful purposes.

In a speech Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly in New York,  Rouhani said Iran has a right to enrich uranium.

The Iranian leader said he is open to transparent, immediate dialogue with the U.S. and the West about Iran's nuclear program.  He added that nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction have no place in the Iranian doctrine.

He also said sanctions imposed on Iran for its nuclear ambitions have hurt its economy and have victimized the Iranian people.

Rouhani's speech marked his first appearance on the world stage.  His election in June appears to have spurred new diplomatic outreach from Iran's ruling establishment.

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. officials said President Barack Obama and Rouhani will not hold a historic meeting while they are in New York for the U.N. General Assembly.

The officials said a meeting would prove too complicated for the Iranian delegation.

No meeting had been scheduled between the two leaders, but U.S. officials had not ruled out the possibility of an encounter, even just a handshake.

U.S. and Iranian government heads have not met since before the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah.

Iran has long insisted its nuclear program is peaceful.  The U.S. and some of its allies disagree, and have helped impose several rounds of sanctions that have battered Iran's economy.