The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said yesterday that his government would never develop nuclear weapons and that he has full authority to negotiate a nuclear deal with the West.
Speaking in a rare interview with US television network NBC at his presidential compound in Tehran, Mr Rouhani also said the tone of the letter he received recently from President Barack Obama, in an exchange of messages between the two leaders, was “positive and constructive.”
“It could be subtle and tiny steps for a very important future,” Mr Rouhani said, in another sign that he may be seeking a thaw in relations between Iran and the West after years locked in a standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The comments came the same day as Iran released a dozen prominent political prisoners, including a human rights lawyer who defended opposition activists and was imprisoned for three years.
The release of lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and the other prisoners comes ahead of a visit next week by Iran’s new president to New York to speak at the United Nations. Mr Rouhani has said he hopes to usher in a new era of “increased openness” for the Islamic Republic at home and abroad.