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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs