News / Middle East

Rouhani: Iran Rejects Threats, Cites Red Lines in Nuclear Talks

FILE - Iran's President Hassan Rouhani
FILE - Iran's President Hassan Rouhani
Reuters
President Hassan Rouhani, architect of Iran's diplomatic opening to big powers, said on Sunday it would not yield to any threats or discrimination in an apparent bid to keep hardliners on side as Tehran edges toward a deal on its nuclear program.
    
He was speaking to the Iranian parliament, a bastion of conservatives, a day after the Islamic Republic and the six powers narrowed differences at talks in Geneva and decided to resume them on Nov. 20 to try to defuse a decade-old stand-off and fears of a drift towards a new Middle East war.
    
The sides seemed on the verge of a breakthrough before cracks materialized among U.S. and European allies as France declined to endorse the proposal under discussion, believing it did not adequately neutralize the risk of an Iranian atom bomb.
    
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France Inter radio that Paris desired a nuclear settlement with Iran but could not accept a "fool's game" - in other words, a weak deal.
    
Diplomats said the main stumbling blocks included the status of Iran's Arak heavy-water reactor of potential use in making bomb-grade plutonium, the fate of Iran's stockpile of higher-enriched uranium - both acute issues for France - and the extent of relief from trade sanctions demanded by Tehran.
    
Israel, which calls Iran's nuclear activity a mortal threat, denounced the interim deal taking shape in Geneva as it would have let Iran retain some enrichment capacity rather than dismantle it, while giving Tehran respite from sanctions.
    
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads a special cabinet meeting in Sde Boker in southern Israel, Nov. 10, 2013.Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads a special cabinet meeting in Sde Boker in southern Israel, Nov. 10, 2013.
x
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads a special cabinet meeting in Sde Boker in southern Israel, Nov. 10, 2013.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads a special cabinet meeting in Sde Boker in southern Israel, Nov. 10, 2013.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu served notice that Israel would not feel bound by such a deal, unmistakably reiterating a veiled threat to take military action if it deems diplomacy to restrain Iran's nuclear ambitions a dead end.
    
Rouhani told the Iranian parliament that his negotiators had told their big power interlocutors in Geneva, "We will not answer to any threat, sanction, humiliation or discrimination."
    
He did not elaborate on his reference to threats against Iran, but Netanyahu's condemnation of the talks loomed large, as did the ideological resistance of Iranian conservatives to any mending of fences with the West.
    
By "discrimination" and "humiliation", he may have been alluding to pressure from hawks in the West for Iran to scrap its entire nuclear program, which Tehran says is wholly peaceful in nature.
    
"The Islamic Republic has not and will not bow its head to threats from any authority," Rouhani said. "For us there are red lines that cannot be crossed. National interests are our red lines that include our rights under the framework of international regulations and [uranium] enrichment in Iran."
    
Diplomatic opening from Tehran
    
The fact that any deal might be feasible after a decade of increasingly vitriolic confrontation between Iran and Western powers, shows the striking shift in the tone of Iranian foreign policy since Rouhani's landslide election victory in June.
    
Rouhani, a relative moderate, opened diplomatic windows to a nuclear compromise to alleviate economic sanctions that have throttled the OPEC giant's lifeblood oil industry and cut it off from the international banking system.
    
He has won crucial public backing from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's ultimate authority, who - despite his profound suspicion of Washington - has warned hardline loyalists not to challenge the negotiating path.
    
Rouhani has repeated Iran's longtime insistence on a right to a sovereign nuclear energy industry as a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Most diplomats concede that, as Tehran has expanded its nuclear capacity exponentially since 2006, the time for demanding a total shutdown - although enshrined in several U.N. Security Council resolutions - has now passed.
    
The Islamic Republic says its nuclear activities are purely peaceful and its negotiators say they are ready to take steps necessary for a deal if their nuclear "rights are recognized" and world powers reciprocate by relaxing sanctions.
    
Fabius's sharp remarks rankled with others in the Western camp. But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry played down suggestions of a rift as the talks ended late on Saturday, saying, "I think tonight there is a unity in our position and a unity in the purpose as we leave here."
    
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said senior political officials from Iran and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany would meet again on Nov. 20 to work on a deal. Kerry told reporters that an agreement could be within reach.
    
"There is no question in my mind that we are closer now as we leave Geneva than we were when we came and that with good work and good faith over the course of the next weeks, we can, in fact, secure our goal," Kerry said.
    
Gaps narrowed, differences clarified

"We came to Geneva to narrow the differences and I can tell you without any exaggeration we ... narrowed the differences and clarified those that remain," he said.
    
But he warned Tehran that Washington's desire for a diplomatic solution to the long-running dispute over Iran's nuclear program was not infinite, saying the window for diplomacy "does not stay open indefinitely."
    
Ministers from Iran and the major powers held a series of meetings late on Saturday in a final push for an outline of a deal that would freeze parts of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. In the end, however, they chose to adjourn for 10 days.
    
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton listens as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a news conference at the end of the Iranian nuclear talks in Geneva, Switzerland, Nov. 10, 2013.EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton listens as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a news conference at the end of the Iranian nuclear talks in Geneva, Switzerland, Nov. 10, 2013.
x
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton listens as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a news conference at the end of the Iranian nuclear talks in Geneva, Switzerland, Nov. 10, 2013.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton listens as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a news conference at the end of the Iranian nuclear talks in Geneva, Switzerland, Nov. 10, 2013.
Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said they hoped an agreement would be signed later this month.
    
"We have done some intense negotiations and discussions and our objective is to reach a conclusion and that's what we will come back to try and do," Ashton told reporters.
    
Zarif said, "We had a very good three days, very productive three days, and it is something we can build on."
    
The latest talks began on Thursday and Kerry unexpectedly arrived on Friday to help bridge differences and secure an agreement. From the time he arrived in Geneva, Kerry played down expectations of a deal.
    
Fabius, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and their counterparts from Russia and Germany, Sergei Lavrov and Guido Westerwelle, also attended, along with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong, demonstrating the six-nation group's commitment to reaching an agreement.
    
'On same wavelength'
    
Zarif, asked about the role Fabius played in the talks, did not criticize the French minister, saying disagreements at this stage of the negotiations were to be expected.
    
"It was natural that when we start dealing with the details there will be differences of views and we expect it," he said. "I am not disappointed at all because the meeting we just had ... was a good meeting."
    
"I think we are all on the same wavelength and that is important and that gives us the impetus to move forward when we meet again next time."
    
The powers remain concerned that Iran is continuing to amass enriched uranium not for future nuclear power stations, as Tehran says, but as potential fuel for nuclear warheads.
    
They are searching for a preliminary agreement that would restrain Iran's nuclear program and make it more transparent for U.N. anti-proliferation inspectors. In exchange, Tehran would obtain phased and initially limited relief from the sanctions throttling the economy of the giant OPEC state.
    
Iran and the six powers have been discussing a partial nuclear suspension deal lasting about six months. During that time, Iran and the six powers would negotiate a permanent agreement aimed at removing all concerns that Tehran is amassing the capability to produce nuclear weapons.
    
One concession under consideration is the disbursement to Iran, in installments, about $50 billion of Iranian funds blocked in foreign accounts for years.
    
Another step could be temporarily relaxing restrictions on precious metals trade and Washington suspending pressure on countries not to buy Iranian oil.
    
Negotiators have limited political room to maneuver as there is hard-line opposition to any diplomatic thaw both in Tehran - especially among its elite Revolutionary Guards and conservative Shi'ite clerics - and in the U.S. Congress.
    
Kerry appeared to respond to his critics in the U.S. legislature by saying, "This is an issue of such consequence that really needs to rise or fall on merits, not on politics."

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid