Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday he listened carefully to President Obama's speech to the United Nations General Assembly. He must have heard then, the president say that U.S. diplomatic efforts will soon become focused on "Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons."
In his own speech, Rouhani reiterated his recent statements about his government's nuclear program. Specifically, that Tehran doesn't have any nuclear weapons, which "have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine and contradict our fundamental and ethical convictions." He added, as translated by an interpreter. "Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region."
Rouhani called threats posed by Iran "imaginary," saying, "Those who harp on the so-called threat of Iran are either a threat against international peace and security themselves." Iran, he said, is the "anchor of stability" in an unstable region.
While Obama and Rouhani can't agree on the state of Iran's nuclear program, they appear to have found common ground about what's next: "mutual respect" in future talks. Such negotiations would end a 34-year freeze on U.S.-Iran diplomatic relations.
For Rouhani, though, it's not time for that just yet. The Iranian president declined to meet with Obama on the sidelines of Tuesday's events, according to pool reports, explaining that such an encounter is "too complicated" at this time.
Still, Rouhani's goal is "to remove any and all reasonable concerns about Iran's peaceful nuclear program." The White House's instance that Iran's nuclear program is anything but peaceful, however, complicates that.