Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took a tough line regarding his country’s nuclear facilities over the weekend, insisting Iran will not dismantle them.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Rouhani responded, “One hundred percent [no],” he said when asked about dismantling nuclear facilities as part of a permanent deal with the West.
Rouhani said nuclear weapons had no place in Iran’s defense strategy but also made clear that Tehran was determined to maintain a uranium enrichment program for peaceful purposes.
Referring to the six-month interim nuclear deal his country signed with the West last weekend , the Iranian president said the negotiations that preceded the deal were “the best test” of whether trust could be restored between the United States and Iran.
Recalling his landmark telephone conversation with President Barack Obama last September, he said, “I found him someone with very polite and smart language”.
“Iran-U.S. problems are very complicated and cannot be resolved over a short period of time. Despite the complications, there has been an opening over the past 100 days, which can widen later,” he said.
Rouhani’s comments contrast with the views of many in the U.S. Congress who believe that a final-stage deal would need to include the closure of the underground Fordow enrichment facility and the Arak heavy water reactor, which could be used to manufacture plutonium.
Responding to the Iranian president’s remarks, a U.S. Senate aide told the Financial Times, “This is precisely the sort of comment that is going to make some people in Congress very nervous.”
The interim deal reached with Iran last week will have the country freeze some of its nuclear program in exchange for relief in some of the crippling sanctions imposed on it.
Israeli leaders have been critical of the deal, which they argue left Iran dangerously close to obtaining a nuclear weapon.
U.S. lawmakers from both parties have been weary of the deal is well. Soon after the deal was signed, a group of 15 senators declared they would push for more sanctions on Iran.
The Obama administration has been waging a very aggressive campaign to dissuade senators from pursuing new sanctions.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused the White House last week of using “fear-mongering” tactics to prevent the U.S. from laying additional sanctions on Iran after the interim deal on Tehran's nuclear program.
“What I don't appreciate is when I hear remarks out of the White House spokesman that...if we're pursuing sanctions, we're marching the country off to war. I think that's way over the top, I think it's fear-mongering,” he said.