Iran is prepared to engage in nuclear talks and nuclear weapons have no place in his country's security, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday.
In a speech at the U.N. General Assembly, he said that Iran would be willing to "engage immediately in time-bound and result-oriented talks to build mutual confidence and removal of mutual uncertainties."
"Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions," Rouhani said.
He decried international sanctions against Iran.
"Sanctions, beyond any and all rhetoric, cause belligerence, war-mongering and human suffering," he said.
"Iran seeks to resolve problems, not to create them," Rouhani said, pushing for the "rejection of violence and extremism."
Alongside fears facing the world, there are "new hopes," he said. "The hope of universal acceptance and the elite all across the globe of yes to peace and no to war. And the hope of preference of dialogue over conflict, and moderation over extremism."
Striking a conciliatory tone, Rouhani said that Iran "does not seek to increase tensions with the United States."
Rouhani said he listened carefully to U.S. President Barack Obama's speech and hoped that the United States "will refrain from following the short-sighted interests of warmongering pressure groups" so that the two nations "can arrive at a framework to manage our differences."
Earlier Tuesday, two senior administration officials said that Obama and Rouhani wouldn't be shaking hands or meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
Such an encounter proved too complicated for Iran back home, the officials told reporters.
Both presidents spoke on the first day of the annual gathering of world leaders in New York. Obama made clear in his morning remarks that the United States was committed to preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
"We will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction," he said.
At the same time, Obama welcomed what he called positive signals from Iran that it was ready to negotiate with the international community on how it can develop a peaceful use of nuclear power without creating any weapons.
"We are not seeking regime change, and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy," Obama said. "Instead, we insist that the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and U.N. Security Council resolutions."
He noted that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and Rouhani "just recently reiterated that the Islamic Republic will never develop a nuclear weapon."
"These statements made by our respective governments should offer the basis for a meaningful agreement," Obama said, adding that "to succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed those comments, but said that his country "will not be fooled by half-measures that merely provide a smokescreen for Iran's continual pursuit of nuclear weapons."
"Iran thinks that soothing words and token actions will enable it to continue on its path to the bomb. Like North Korea before it, Iran will try to remove sanctions by offering cosmetic concessions, while preserving its ability to rapidly build a nuclear weapon at a time of its choosing," Netanyahu said.
Secretary of State John Kerry will join his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, at a Thursday meeting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany. Discussions will surround restarting talks on Iran's nuclear program.
One European Union official expressed optimism over the chance for concrete progress.
"In terms of whether we're on the verge of a breakthrough, I would put it like this: I was struck as I said by the energy and determination the foreign minister demonstrated to me," said Catherine Ashton, high representative for foreign affairs and security policy of the European Union.
But no one is expecting an overnight solution to Iran's alleged effort to build a nuclear weapon, an effort Tehran has so far denied, insisting its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
"The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested," Obama said.
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