Iranian President Hassan Rowhani praised on Tuesday President Barack Obama’s approach as constructive and vowed that his country would never develop nuclear weapons.
President Obama had sent a letter to President Rowhani congratulating him on winning the presidency.
“From my point of view, the tone of the letter was positive and constructive,” Rowhani said in an interview with NBC news channel ahead of the U.N. General Assembly.
“It could be subtle and tiny steps for a very important future. I believe the leaders in all countries could think in their national interest and they should not be under the influence of pressure groups. I hope to witness such an atmosphere in the future,” Rowhani said.
Rowhani’s statements came a day after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei urged flexibility in dealing with the West, saying that ‘heroic leniency’ should sometimes be pursued.
“Sometimes a wrestler shows flexibility for technical reasons, but he doesn’t forget who his opponent is and what his real goal is,” Khamenei was quoted by ISNA news agency as telling a meeting of the Revolutionary Guards commanders.
But the White House has played down speculation that the U.S. and Iranian leaders could hold a historic meeting in New York.
“There is an opportunity here for diplomacy,” Obama said in an interview Tuesday with the Spanish-language television network Telemundo, according to AFP.
“I hope the Iranians take advantage of it. There are indications that Rowhani, the new president, is somebody who is looking to open dialogue with the West and with the United States — in a way that we haven’t seen in the past.
“And so we should test it,” Obama said.
At the very least, Rowhani is virtually certain to project a different image at the U.N. than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was known for his harsh denunciations of Israel and questioning of the Holocaust, according to AFP.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described Rowhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and threatened military action to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb.
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