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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs