NEW YORK — In a widely anticipated speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Iran’s newly elected President Hassan Rouhani declared that Iran is ready for nuclear talks, while Israel, the U.S., and Jewish groups were skeptical of his statements.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. Credit: UN Photo/Sarah Fretwell.
Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly several hours after U.S. President Barack Obama’s address, Rouhani said he hopes to smooth relations between the U.S. and Iran, expressing hope that “we can arrive at a framework to manage our differences.”
Rouhani stated that Iran would never pursue the production of nuclear weapons from its uranium enrichment program, but offered no specific proposals to achieve a compromise on its nuclear program. Rouhani also criticized the heavy international sanctions levied against Iran, saying they hurt regular Iranian citizens. “The negative impact is not nearly limited to the intended victims of sanctions,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the Iranian leader reportedly squashed speculation that he would meet with U.S. President Barack Obama. In his speech, Obama said that Iran’s new “conciliatory” words on its nuclear program must be matched by clear actions.
Speaking to reporters in Tel Aviv just hours before Rouhani’s speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Rouhani of only offering “cosmetic concessions” to its nuclear program.
“We will not be fooled by half-measures that merely provide a smoke screen for Iran’s continual pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said in a video message.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed Rouhani’s departure from the anti-Semitic ramblings of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but criticized his lack of sincerity about Iran’s nuclear program.
“Given the opportunity to answer constructively and honestly the greatest global security concern today, President Rouhani chose to continue the long-standing Iranian line of avoidance of the truth about his country’s nuclear program,” American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris said in a statement.
“President Rouhani’s ‘charm offensive’ before the United Nations General Assembly fell well short of addressing in any serious way the harsh reality of Iran’s decades-long quest for nuclear weapons,” said Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL national chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director, in a joint statement.
Rouhani also slammed Israel during his speech.
“Palestine is under occupation,” he said. “The basic rights of the Palestinians are tragically violated, and they are deprived of the right of return and access to their homes, birthplace and homeland.”