L to R: President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haas, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and Asia Society President Josette Sheeran in New York on September 26, 2013. (Kenji Takigami/Asia Society)
Hassan Rouhani made headlines during his first U.S. visit as the President of Iran, and his remarks followed by a discussion with Asia Society President Josette Sheeran Thursday were no exception. The event was co-organized by Asia Society and the Council on Foreign Relations.
He addressed the Asia Society and Council on Foreign Relations soon after his foreign minister held talks with major powers at the United Nations in the highest-level contact ever between the United States and Iran over its nuclear program. "We hope that this positive step that has been taken as a first solid and strong step will help us continue talks," Rouhani said. Asked about his recent remarks to the Washington Post that he wanted a deal within months, Rouhani said: "The sooner the better."
Iran's own Press TV reiterated this sentiment in a story and video clip from the event, writing that progress to date sets the stage "for a new round of negotiations next month to resolve the West's dispute with Tehran over its nuclear energy program."
Other news outlets including Bloomberg News, the Los Angeles Times, and Al-Monitor focused on the impromptu comments by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who arrived at the event immediately following discussions with representatives of the P5 +1, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The Wall Street Journal quoted the foreign minister in a front-page story about the president's U.S. visit:
"We agreed to jump start the process so that we can move forward," Mr. Zarif told a gathering of the Asia Society following his meeting with Mr. Kerry. "We need to agree to the parameters of the endgame for Iran's nuclear program in one year."
Others focused on President Rouhani's comments about the Holocaust, an ongoing news story that stems from his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denied that the Holocaust happened. The president's comments were noted by the Jersusalem Post, and were also the focus of a story in the New York Times, which read:
Presented with the opportunity to clarify his position on Thursday, Mr. Rouhani seemed to soften his condemnation further, at a forum sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society in New York. Asked if he could clearly state his stand on the Holocaust, he said through an interpreter that he had responded to that question in earlier interviews. "We condemn the crimes by the Nazis during World War II," he said, but added that many people had been killed, including "a group of Jewish people." This did not mean, he said, "that the price paid for it should be done by other people elsewhere."
Another angle picked up by some outlets focused on the release of dozens of political prisoners in Iran on the eve of Rouhani's visit, and his statement that he hoped for "the freedom of more prisoners," with an end goal of "empty prisons."
Images and video of the public forum with the president were also broadcast from the U.S. to China, including this photo of a more light-hearted Rouhani.