Iranian President Hassan Rohani's offer to participate in nuclear negotiations stops short of halting his nation's uranium enrichment program as demanded by countries that imposed sanctions crippling its economy.
"We are ready to engage in serious and substantial talks without wasting time," Rohani said yesterday in his first news conference as president two days after being sworn in. He offered no new proposals and called on the U.S. to take "practical steps" at the start. "We seek a win-win game and this is possible," he said.
Rohani, who replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president, won in June after promising to end Iran's isolation and improve the country's economy, which has seen oil revenue drop by 50 percent under U.S. and European Union sanctions. Those countries and Israel say Iran is pursuing the capacity to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear program is for civilian purposes.
The groups that advocate greater pressure on Iran say they have no intention of slowing their efforts.
"Sanctions are the reason Rohani got elected," said Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington group that supports stronger sanctions. "Our research shows that sanctions have provided the U.S. with enhanced leverage that Iran is taking very seriously."