Thursday, January 23, 2014

Rouhani: Iran wants full nuclear deal and seeks investments

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani smiles during a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 23, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich
 Iran is determined to negotiate a comprehensive deal on its nuclear program with major powers so it can develop its battered economy, President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday, inviting Western companies to seize opportunities now.
Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Rouhani said Tehran was negotiating with the United States as part of a "constructive engagement" with the world and wanted Washington to back up its words with actions. An interim deal with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany (the P5+1) came into force this week. This granted Iran a limited easing of the sanctions in return for temporary constraints on its uranium enrichment and nuclear development. Most sanctions, including a severe squeeze on Iran's access to the international financial system, remain as yet in force and the United States has stressed Western companies should not regard Iran as "open for business".

Rouhani stressed his commitment to achieving a final settlement. "Iran has a serious will to come to an agreement with the P5+1," he told the assembled business and political leaders. Asked what might prevent a long-term settlement, he cited the risk of "pressure from other parties" - a veiled reference to Israel. "I do not see a serious impediment in the way of this agreement. The Iranian will is strong."
In a private session with energy executives, Rouhani promised a new, attractive investment model for oil contracts by September as part of a drive to lure back Western business barred by the U.S.-led sanctions, participants said.
Rouhani promised to pursue a consistent foreign policy of "prudence and moderation" to revive the economy. He called for cooperation with all Iran's neighbours but did not mention Gulf rival Saudi Arabia by name and refused, when pressed twice, to include Israel among states with which Iran sought friendly relations.
Rouhani repeated Iran's standard pledge not to seek nuclear weapons and said Tehran was willing to accept all safeguards and inspections of the U.N. nuclear agency, provided it was not subjected to "discrimination". "We never sought and will never seek nuclear weapons," the president said. "I declare that a nuclear weapon has no place in our security strategy."
Some Western energy chiefs said they were impressed by his commitment to attract foreign investment in the sector, which has seen production cut by a third and exports halved by the sanctions. "The fact that the president of Iran came to the meeting today... is clearly a sign that Iran wants to open up to international oil companies," said Paolo Scaroni, chief executive of Italy's Eni, who was at the meeting.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Davos but not in the hall during the speech, said in a statement: "Rouhani continues Iran's deception show. The goal of the Iranian ayatollahs' regime, that hides behind Rouhani's smile, is to ease sanctions without giving up their program to produce nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said, urging the international community "not to be duped".

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