Iran wants to reach a deal with West on Tehran\’s nuclear issue in three months, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said during his interview to the Washington Post.
President Rouhani told the Post Wednesday Iran is willing to take unspecified transparency measures to show its nuclear program is peaceful.
The comments come a day before the resumption of international talks on Iran\’s uranium enrichment program, which many Western powers suspect is aimed at building a bomb.
Rouhani said the "only way forward" is for a timeline to be inserted into the talks. He said Tehran is open to a three or six-month timetable, but that a quicker deal is "more beneficial to everyone."
Echoing recent comments, Rouhani insisted Iran\’s Supreme Leader Ali Khameini has given him full authority to solve the nuclear issue.
If such a deal could be reached, he said it could serve as a "beginning point" toward improving relations with Washington. The two countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1980.
In earlier comments Wednesday, Rouhani said he did not shake hands with President Barack Obama at the United Nations this week because the timing was not right but said he was open to a future meeting with the U.S. leader.
On Thursday, Iran will hold talks with the P5+1 group of world powers on Tehran\’s uranium enrichment programme.
In a rare encounter between US and Iranian officials, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as diplomats from the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany in New York.
The meeting in New York includes the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany. The talks, which will take place on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, are seen as a key test of Iran\’s commitment to resolving the nuclear issue.
At his speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Rouhani repeated Iran\’s long-standing demand that world leaders recognize its right to continue enriching uranium for peaceful purposes.
The U.S. and its allies suspect the program is secretly aimed at building a bomb, and have helped implement several rounds of sanctions that have crippled Iran\’s economy.
U.S. officials have welcomed Rouhani\’s less aggressive posture than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but say they are looking for concrete actions to back up his words.
Earlier, Rouhani appeared to distance himself further from Ahmadinejad. He told reporters the Nazi Holocaust against Jews was a crime that cannot be ignored. Ahmadinejad, who completed his two terms as president in August, repeatedly denied the Holocaust.
But Rouhani also said it is important that Holocaust victims not "victimize" others — a reference to Israel\’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Iran has been negotiating with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, since 2006 about its nuclear programme.
The West suspects Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, a claim strongly denied by Iran.