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Top Adviser to Supreme Leader: Iran Will Never Suspend Nuclear Program

A top adviser to Iran's supreme leader says Tehran will never again suspend its nuclear activities, but that it will tone down its rhetoric.

Ali Akbar Velayati, who advises Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on nuclear and other important issues, told The Associated Press the election of Hasan Rouhani as Iran's new president opens up new possibilities for better communication with the West.

"I think this could be a test for the good will of the western countries, if our president said that we are going to follow a moderate policy, of course, inside the principles. They have to use this opportunity."

Velayati did not specify how the United States and other western countries should approach Iran. But he said Tehran would respond in a more diplomatic manner than it did under the presidency of Mr. Rouhani's predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In an interview published Tuesday, Velayati said final decisions on the nuclear issue are made by the supreme leader Khamenei, not the president.

He said Khamenei has set the "principles" and the government has to abide by them, so Rouhani's administration will follow "the same trend strategically as the former government."

The U.S. and its allies have imposed economic sanctions, including oil and banking restrictions, after Tehran refused to permit international nuclear inspectors into its nuclear facilities. It is widely believed that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons program. Tehran insists its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes.

Velayati said his country will never again suspend enrichment as it did in 2003 as a confidence building measure.

"We stopped any kind of enrichment for two years. What was the result? Nothing. Every day they used to put an extra claim on their former claims. Why must we repeat this experience?"

Iran's senior politician said direct talks between Washington and Tehran are possible if the United States improves its behavior toward Iran.

Velayati also confirmed Tehran's staunch support for the government of Syria.


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