TEHRAN // Iran's new president Hassan Rouhani said yesterday he was "seriously determined" to resolve a dispute with the West over Tehran's nuclear programme and was ready to enter "serious and substantive" negotiations on the issue.
But addressing his first news conference as president, he said the other side should realise a solution could be reached "solely through talks, not threats". He said he was confident the concerns of both sides could be removed in a short time.
"We are the people of interaction and talks, with seriousness and without wasting time, if the other sides are ready," he said.
Hopes for a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue have risen with Mr Rouhani's win over conservative rivals in June, when voters replaced hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Yesterday, EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton, who leads talks with Tehran on behalf of the so-called P5+1 countries on its disputed nuclear programme, called on Iran's new president to agree a fresh round of negotiations as soon as possible. In a letter offering her congratulations on Mr Rouhani's inauguration, a statement quoted her as saying: "together with the (P5+1), I stand ready to continue talks to find a resolution as quickly as possible". "I hope that we can schedule meaningful talks with your negotiating team as soon as practicable," she said.
Iran's critics say that it has used previous nuclear negotiations as a delaying tactic while continuing to develop nuclear weapons-related technology - something Tehran denies. Iran says it needs atomic power for energy generation and medical research.
"Iran's peaceful nuclear programme is a national issue ... we will not give up the rights of the Iranian people," Mr Rouhani said.
"We will preserve our rights based on the international regulations," he added, in reference to Iran's insistence that it has the right to peaceful use of nuclear power as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
* Reuters and Agence France-Presse