New president Hasan Rouhani: I have power to ensure Iran will never seek nuclear bomb

TV interview comes days before first appearance at the UN General Assembly

Iran's recently installed President has said his country won't seek a nuclear bomb, and claimed - contrary to Western perception - he has the authority to make such decisions.

Hasan Rouhani spoke to the American TV station NBC in Tehran, ahead of his first appearance on the world stage when he attends the UN General Assembly in New York.

Described widely as a moderate, the Glasgow-educated former nuclear envoy was elected on a promise to ease tensions with the West and free the country from painful trade sanctions. The sanctions have slashed Iran's vital oil exports by more than half in the past two years, sent inflation soaring and severely undercut the value of its currency.

According to an NBC translation of the interview, Mr Rouhani said: "We have never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb and we are not going to do so.

"We have time and again said that under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever."

That denial - along with the accompanying claim that Iran's uranium enrichment programme is for energy production - has been made before, including by Rouhani's predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It hasn't yet convinced UK or US administrations. The US and its allies suspect Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, a feat some experts say the country might be able to accomplish as early as next year.

During past nuclear negotiations with the West, and despite the seemingly endless discord between the two sides, Rouhani became a respected and well-liked figure.

But Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is known to control all important matters of state, with Rouhani not thought to have the clout to make decisions about nuclear policy. Rouhani denied this in the interview, saying: "In its nuclear programme, this government enters with full power and has complete authority. We have sufficient political latitude to solve this problem."

He also said he received a "positive and constructive" letter from US President Barack Obama upon his election in June. He said: "From my point of view, the tone of the letter was positive and constructive. It could be subtle and tiny steps for a very important future."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said there were no plans for Mr Obama to meet Mr Rouhani at the UN General Assembly.

He said: "I think it's fair to say that the President believes there is an opportunity for diplomacy when it comes to the issues that have presented challenges to the United States and our allies with regards to Iran.

"And we hope that the Iranian government takes advantage of this opportunity."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future