Iran will never develop nuclear weapons, its president claimed on Wednesday.
Speaking to NBC News in his first interview with a U.S. news outlet since his election, President Hassan Rouhani also said he has full authority to make a deal with the West on the disputed atomic program.
Rouhani also spoke to NBC’s Ann Curry about his initial interactions with President Barack Obama, who sent him a letter of congratulations and raised "some issues."
"From my point of view, the tone of the letter was positive and constructive," Rouhani said.
"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," he added.
Rouhani's comments are the latest in a slew of signs that he is cautiously open to defrosting relations with the U.S., which were in deep freeze under the isolating leadership of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.
Rouhani, who has been touted by the West as a moderate, indicated he would like a less confrontational approach to nuclear talks with six world powers than Ahmadinejad, but also stressed soon after his election that Tehran would not consider halting the country’s uranium enrichment activities entirely.
Last week, Rouhani said that the time for resolving Iran's nuclear dispute with the West was limited, urging the world to seize the opportunity of his election.
He seemed to receive the backing of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who signalled on Tuesday that he is in favor of flexibility in talks with the West, and said he’s not opposed to “correct diplomatic moves” with other countries.
Rouhani plans a six-day visit to New York starting September 22. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the United Nations Security Council powers plus Germany in nuclear talks with Iran, plans to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York.
There were speculations that Rouhani would meet with U.S. President Barack Obama while in New York, particularly after Obama said in a television interview that he had communicated with Iran’s new president by letter.
However, the White House denied on Monday that Obama has any intention of meeting Rouhani, in what would have been the first such encounter since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Israel has warned the world that Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and would continue to develop Iran’s nuclear program while fooling the world with comments to present himself as a moderate.
Responding to the recent remarks by the Iranians, Finance Minister Yair Lapid told CNN on Tuesday that actions, not words, were important.
“When the reactor in Qom will be closed, when they will stop enriching uranium, when they take off the enriched uranium they already have, then we can discuss the fact whether we can all hold hands and sing hallelujah together,” stated Lapid.
“I’m happy to listen to any new music coming from Iran,” he said, “but this has to be backed by – not only by words but also by deeds.”
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Sukkot in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)