News / Middle East

    Iran's Presidential Candidates Clash Over Nuclear Approach

    Hassan Rohani, center, during a meeting at the European Council, Brussels, Nov. 17, 2003 file photo.
    Hassan Rohani, center, during a meeting at the European Council, Brussels, Nov. 17, 2003 file photo.
    Reuters
    A former Iranian nuclear negotiator running for president used his first television appearance of the campaign to reject accusations he had been too soft in talks with world powers.
     
    The most prominent moderate candidate in an election dominated by hardliners, cleric Hassan Rohani, nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005, oversaw an agreement to suspend Iran's fledgling uranium enrichment-related activities.
     
    Iran has since stepped up its nuclear program which many countries, particularly in the West, fear is aimed at acquiring a weapons capability, something Tehran strongly denies.
     
    Hardliners see the nuclear program as a matter of national pride and any concession to outside pressure an affront to Iran's sovereign rights. The current nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, is campaigning for president on his record of giving no ground in talks.
     
    Western powers are watching the June 14 election to see whether President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's successor will set a new tone in talks — several rounds of which in the last year have failed to defuse tensions over the nuclear program that Israel has said it could use military force to stop.
     
    In a spirited exchange on state television on Monday, Rohani said allegations he had halted nuclear development were "a lie" and suggested his interviewer was "illiterate."
     
    "It's good if you study history," a smiling Rohani, dressed in the traditional clerical garb, told the suited interviewer. "We suspended it? We mastered the [nuclear] technology!"
     
    The 64-year-old argued the Islamic Republic had expanded uranium enrichment during his tenure while demonstrating the program's peaceful nature and preventing a U.S. attack.
     
    "We didn't allow Iran to be attacked," he said, referring to the U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
     
    "They [the U.S.] imagined tomorrow or the day after, it would be Iran's turn."
     
    Tarnished and hurt
    Nuclear policy is ultimately decided by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and all candidates stress Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy and deny plans to build nuclear weapons.
     
    Analysts say voters are more likely to decide on candidates based on how they would reinvigorate an economy suffering from high unemployment and inflation.
     
    But the nuclear issue has been "used to discredit rivals" in the early days of the campaign, said Dina Esfandiary, an Iran analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
     
    Jalili's camp is trading on its hardline attitude to the nuclear program. In the last five years, Jalili, seen as rigidly devoted to Iran's Islamic revolutionary ideals, has overseen a hardening stance in talks with world powers.
     
    "Our national interests and security were tarnished and hurt," said Ali Bagheri, Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator who is supporting Jalili's campaign, in a recent speech, referring to Rohani's tenure under reformist President Mohammad Khatami.
     
    "The fate of that period was unhappy and God forbid it should be a period that we return to."
     
    Several rounds of nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers — the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany — have failed to reach an agreement.
     
    Russia's ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, said on Tuesday the six powers intend to hold a new round of talks in July.

    You May Like

    Beijing Warns Critics Over South China Sea Dispute

    Official warns critics that the more they challenge China's position regarding disputed territories in one of world’s busiest waterways, the more it will push back

    Will New Russian Force Be 'Putin’s Personal Army'?

    With broad powers to control riots, suppress dissent, National Guard may be aimed at sending a message to West as much as keeping peace at home

    Foreign Media in Pyongyang Barred From North Korean Party Congress

    Hundreds of international journalists invited to cover historic party meeting barred from entering actual event

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020i
    X
    Ramon Taylor
    May 05, 2016 10:05 PM
    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020

    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

    With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet. But, thanks to VOA's Afghan Service, two families whose children had been working in a brick-making factory - to earn their livings and pay off family debts - now have a new lease on life. Zabihullah Ghazi reports.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora