Iran's President-elect Hasan Rouhani said the only way to break the nation's nuclear standoff with the world, and bring about an end to economic sanctions, is to engage in one-on-one talks with the United States.
The statement flies in the face of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the real decision-makers in the nation who have long resisted the notion of unilateral discussions with the United States. But Mr. Rouhani may have the political capital to bring about such talks, The Associated Press reported.
He first raised the point in a pre-election speech in mid-May — and the fact that he won the presidency by a wide margin shows the nation's behind-the-scenes leadership may be rethinking its approach to nuclear talks.
On top of that, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave signs in March that he would not directly oppose talks with U.S. officials on nuclear matters, AP said.
Mr. Rouhani was the chief nuclear negotiator for Iran between 2003 and 2005. He said then that he would have made gains in talks with the United States if he had been allowed to speak in a one-on-one setting.
At the same time, political experts caution against putting too much hope into Mr. Rouhani's ability to bring about nuclear concessions that are favorable to the West, AP reported.
He takes office officially in August, but even then, Iran's theocratic rulers will have the final say in policy matters. Moreover, Mr. Rouhani has been clear in his support for certain policies that America wants reformed: He said immediately after his election, for example, that he will never give up Iran's right to enrich uranium.
America has long accused Iran of enriching uranium to pursue nuclear weaponry, while Iran has insisted its program is for peaceable purposes only.
"The bottom line is that Rouhani's views are not a wholesale change from the ruling system's," said Mohammad Ali Shabani, a British-based Middle East expert, in the AP. "They are pretty much the same on all the central points on what Iran wants. The issue is over tactics and how to get there."
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