Iran Will "Never" Build Nuclear Weapons, Says Iranian President

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 18 2013 8:45 PM

Iran Will "Never" Build Nuclear Weapons, Says Iranian President

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Iranian supporters of President-elect Hassan Rowhani gather at the mausoleum of the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran on June 16, 2013.

Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

On Wednesday, in his first interview with American media since his election, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told NBC News “we have never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb, and we are not going to do so.”

Rouhani went on to say, according to NBC News, that "Iran will never develop nuclear weapons and that he has the clout to make a deal with the West on the disputed atomic program."

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How far Rouhani’s change in tone, compared to his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will go in Washington remains to be seen after years of diplomatic brinksmanship between the two countries over Iran’s intentions for its uranium enrichment program.

But, ahead of Rouhani’s first appearance before the United Nations scheduled for next week, there have been sings of a thaw in U.S.-Iran relations. The White House said on Wednesday that President Obama had exchanged letters with his Iranian counterpart. Rouhani described Obama’s letter congratulating him on his election as “positive and constructive.”

On Wednesday, Iranian authorities also made an unexpected move, freeing 11 of the country’s “most prominent political prisoners,” the New York Times reports.

Here's more from the Times on the implications of Rouhani's latest moves:

Analysts said the prisoner release was a significant step in Mr. Rouhani’s efforts to repair Iran’s relationship with the West, mired in a dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and criticism of its human rights policies. His visit to New York to attend the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly is part of a diplomatic offensive he began after his election in June.

The U.S. and Iran cut off formal diplomatic ties in 1980 after the American embassy in Tehran was stormed and American diplomats taken hostage.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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