WASHINGTON— U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Friday. Some 30 heads of state, including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, are among 2,500 participants attending the annual meeting of world leaders. Iran, Syria and the global economy top the agenda this year. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Kerry arrived in Davos on Thursday after a peace conference on Syria in Montreux, Switzerland. In an interview with Al-Arabiya, he rebuked Iran for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"Iran understands that the Geneva 1 communiqué calls for a transition government with full executive authority by mutual consent. Iran could have come to Geneva but they refused to embrace that standard," said Kerry.
Kerry's remarks came hours after the Iranian president sought to attract foreign investors for his sanctions-hit country. Rouhani said his government has made major steps to improve relations with the West.
"Engagement between Iran and the United States also entered a new phase during the past month, and for the first time politicians from both countries have negotiated, exchanged views and have made decisions to resolve differences in relation to the nuclear issue. This is a major development since Iran's Islamic Revolution," said Rouhani.
Rouhani also said that Iran has the right to build nuclear power, which he said was strictly for peaceful purposes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly questioned Iran's claims.
"They say they oppose nuclear weapons. Why do they insist on maintaining the ballistic missiles and the plutonium and the advanced centrifuges that are only used for the production of nuclear weapons? So, it sounds good, I wish it was real. It isn't real. I think the world has a mission to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, or from manufacturing nuclear weapons," said Netanyahu.
Israel is pushing for more sanctions against Tehran, a move that Washington has halted for the time being.
Kerry offered assurances to U.S. allies in the region that the United States will never allow Iran to build nuclear weapons.
“'They have to have inspections every day of [Iran's nuclear facility] Fordow. They have to have inspections every day in Natanz. We didn't have that before we made this agreement. Now yes, okay, if they broke out and decided they're going to throw this agreement away and go start enrichment again, sure they can turn around. But guess what? If they do that, then the military option that is available to the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do," said Kerry.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew also defended the U.S. decision on Iran.
"Each year the impact of the sanctions that go into effect is far greater than the one-time relief that was in the joint plan. And I've been very clear with businesses, both in the United States and internationally, that they should be very clear-headed as they think about going and doing business in Iran now because the sanctions regime has not been removed," said Lew.
Lew also pointed out that the oil and financial sanctions on Tehran should remain in place and that Washington will continue to enforce and monitor them for any violations.