New Iranian President Hassan Rohani took his bid to improve Iran's image onto the world stage with a speech yesterday at the United Nations that offered softer rhetoric without conceding his country's right to nuclear power.
Rohani, 64, said Iran isn't interested in escalating tensions with the U.S. and is ready to enter talks "without delay" to resolve questions about whether his country's nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, as he said, or a secret attempt to develop the capability to make weapons, as the U.S., Israel and the European Union suspect.
"Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions," Rohani told the UN General Assembly, according to an English language translation of his remarks. "Our national interests make it imperative that we remove any and all reasonable concerns about Iran's peaceful nuclear program."
Without mentioning any nation or group by name, he then said the crime committed against the Jewish people doesn't justify occupation of Palestinian land.
In the interview, he made a point of extending "my greetings to the people of America who are very dear and near to the hearts of the Iranian people and to wish them a good time and good times ahead."
Rohani missed his chance to impress the world with his UN speech, said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. "Rohani's speech was targeted not at winning over Americans, but pleasing Khamenei and other hardliners at home in Tehran," Dubowitz said.