Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Nuclear Stance Still a Roadblock as Iran Signals Overture to U.S

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Nuclear Stance Still a Roadblock as Iran Signals Overture to U.S

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama and the newly elected president of Iran signaled willingness to improve ties between their nations Monday, but both leaders made clear that a positive tone may not easily translate into progress in resolving the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

In his first news conference since being elected president of Iran on Friday, moderate cleric Hasan Rowhani said he wanted better relations with Washington. But he ruled out suspending Iran's nuclear enrichment program, the biggest source of tensions between the two governments over the past decade, saying, "Those days are behind us."

"All should know that the next government will not budge defending our inalienable rights," Mr. Rowhani, a former nuclear negotiator, told reporters at a Tehran think tank that he has helped run.

Mr. Rowhani, to take office Aug. 3, said he wants to reduce tensions with the United States, and called animosity between the two sides "an old wound that must be treated" before relations can be normalized.

Mr. Obama, in his first public comments about the Iranian election, also sounded a hopeful note, saying he wants "a more serious, substantive" engagement with Tehran. But he said Iran's leaders would have to show a genuine willingness to compromise before Washington would agree to roll back the economic sanctions that have crippled the Islamic republic's economy.

"Those will not be lifted in the absence of significant steps in showing the international community that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon," the president said in an interview broadcast Monday night on the "Charlie Rose" show on PBS.

Mr. Obama's comments reflected the complexity of the challenge confronting the administration as it decides how to react to Mr. Rowhani's unexpected, first-round election victory. …

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