Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani reached out to the United States in his first press conference as president Tuesday, calling for "serious and substantive" negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, and cited the need for "talks not threats."
"If the United States shows goodwill and mutual respect, the way for interaction will be open," he declared, urging a diplomatic solution.
Rouhani's Tuesday statements were reported by Reuters as an 'offering of an olive branch' from a president and cleric widely viewed as a moderate within the spectrum of Iranian official politics.
They follow in line with previous statements Rouhani has made, including his declaration at his presidential swearing-in ceremony Sunday, "If you want an adequate response, you shouldn't speak the language of sanctions, you should speak the language of respect."
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US-led sanctions, which target Iranian oil, have decimated the economy of a country whose state revenue is 80 percent oil derived, slamming Iran's poor and working classes and creating shortages in medical supplies and equipment. The sanctions were based on unproven claims of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
In late July, the US House voted in favor of a new round of Iran sanctions, passing a bill heavily backed by AIPAC, despite the opposition of 16 representatives urging a delay of the bill so that diplomacy with Iran's new president can be attempted.
Diplomacy advocates hope that Rouhani's call for talks, despite hostility from the US, can usher alternatives to damaging sanctions and US and Israeli threats and military buildup.
"[Rouhani's latest statement] is very positive," Robert Naiman, policy director for Just Foreign Policy, an organization aimed at building policy based on diplomacy, law and cooperation, told Common Dreams. "This is the best opportunity we've had for diplomacy in years, and it would be a shame not to fully test it."