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September 25, 2013

Rouhani: Iran Has Right to Peaceful Nuclear Program

by VOA News

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that he is open to a transparent and immediate dialogue with the United States and the West about Iran's nuclear program.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, Rouhani also reiterated his country's long-held position that Iran has a right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program, including the enrichment of uranium. He added that nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction have no place in the Iranian doctrine, and that international sanctions have hurt Iran's economy and the Iranian people.

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

He told CNN "the environment is changing" because the Iranian people want a new era of relations with the world. Rouhani also said he brought "peace and friendship from Iranians to Americans."

Earlier in the day, U.S. President Barack Obama told the General Assembly that he is directing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue a diplomatic agreement regarding Iran's nuclear program. Obama said he firmly believes that "the diplomatic path must be tested."

A speculated-about encounter between Rouhani and Obama did not take place on the sidelines of the General Assembly on Tuesday. A U.S. official said the Iranians were not ready to have an encounter at the presidential level just yet, and that such 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.

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 over the issue.