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.
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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs