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Complete Text of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's Address to Asia Society





Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers remarks at the Hilton Hotel in New York City on September 26, 2013. (Kenji Takigami/Asia Society)

The following is the complete English translation of the speech given by Dr. Hassan Rouhani, president of of Iran, on Thursday, September 26, 2013, at the Hilton Hotel in New York City. For complete video of President Rouhani's remarks, plus his exclusive interview with Asia Society President Josette Sheeran, click here.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to meet with you face to face and discuss a number of issues that have preoccupied all of us for many years. I believe I could talk to you today as colleagues talk to each others, as I had the same job as yours until recently, leading a think tank i.e., the Center for Strategic Research, in Tehran for many years. I believe that more interaction at the level of think tanks may help foster more accurate knowledge and understanding among the peoples and the leaders of our two countries, thus thwarting biases and false prejudgments from serving as basis for policy making.

During my years in office, the word 'moderation' and common sense will guide my Government in making and implementing policies in every field. I ran on the platform of 'moderation' and won the election by a large margin. Thus, by the virtue of the strong mandate that I received from the electorate, I am committed to operating in the framework of moderation, which calls, inter alia, for a balance between realism and the pursuit of the ideals of the Islamic Republic.

In the field of foreign policy, that brings me to discard any extreme approach in the conduct of our relations with other states. In this framework, we will seek effective and constructive understanding and interaction with the outside world, focus on mutual confidence building with our neighbors and other regional and international actors and try to orient our foreign policy towards economic development of our country. To this end we will work on easing and removing tensions in our foreign relations and strengthening our relationship with our traditional and new partners in all regions. To do so, we obviously need consensus building at the national level and setting goals transparently, which is underway.

While we will avoid confrontation and antagonism, at the same time, we will actively peruse our larger interests. As we are living in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, we believe that challenges could only be addressed through interaction and active cooperation among states. Global challenges require collective responses. No country by itself and in an isolated way would ever be able to effectively address the challenges it faces. Big powers are no exception to this rule as they increasingly find it difficult to address unilaterally the challenges they face either.

The rapid growth of developing and emerging economies and their ability to achieve what is called “catch-up growth” suggest that their aggregate economic weight is about to surpass that of the advanced world. Longer-term forecasts suggest that today’s developing and emerging countries are likely to account for nearly 60% of world GDP by 2030, up from around 40% in 2000, which would enable them to play a much greater role in global politics. Under such circumstances and while interdependence and competitive-cum-cooperative approach, and not enmity, is the order of the day, zero-sum-game and win-lose approach in international relations has already lost ground, as no country could pursue its interests at the expense of the others. Those who may still insist on adopting and advancing such an approach will end up imposing a lose-lose approach on themselves and others.

In such period of transition, Iran has actual and potential capabilities for enhancing its role in the world arena. Our values are increasingly taking roots. The recent election in Iran, in which close to 75 percent of the eligible voters turned out to vote, showed how what we call religious democracy is maturing. Iran's millennial culture and civilization, its exceptional Iranian state continuity rooted in millennia, its distinguished geopolitics, the characteristics that foster Iran's social stability in the midst of a region in turmoil as well as the pool of its well-educated youth, all in all, enable us to confidently look to the future and aspire to assume the major role in the global level that our people deserve; a role that no actor in global politics can ever ignore.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are also considering the aspects of rebuilding and improving our bilateral and multilateral relations with the countries of Europe and north America on the basis of mutual respect and equal footing. That would include working on easing off any tension, removing hurdles in the way and comprehensively developing relations, including economic ties.

We can begin by avoiding any new tension in Iran-US relationship and, at the same time, endeavor towards removing tensions that we inherited from the past; tensions that continue to mar the relations between our two countries. While we may not be able to forget the major source of mistrust and suspicion that haunted the minds of the Iranian people in their thinking about the US Governments in the past 60 years, we need however to focus rather on the current situation and look forward to the future, trying to turn the turbulent past into a beacon lighting the path ahead. As leaders, we need to rise above petty politics and lead rather than follow the various interest and pressure groups in our respective countries.

In our view, building on and cooperating about issues of interest and concern to both sides could also be another starting point, as it would be in the interest of easing off the ongoing tensions in our region as well. In so doing, we need to counter those interest groups, here in the US and there in the region, whose objective is to keep Iran issue boiling. They seek to further their goal of distracting international attention from issues directly involving themselves and precluding Iran to enhance its status in the region and diminishing the chance for a negotiated agreement on the Iranian nuclear program and thus increase the chances of a continued Iran-US standoff. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The choice the Iranian people made in the recent election came at a time when our region is more than ever grappling with sectarianism, enmities among different groups and potential new breeding grounds and instigation for extremism and terrorism. At the same time, the recent use of chemical weapons in Syria could haunt the peoples in the region for many years to come. We believe that, under such circumstances, a voice of moderation emanating from the region would have a soothing effect and could impact the course of events in a constructive and positive way.

It is unfortunate that, as we speak, many countries in our region wrestle with domestic and/or international issues and challenges with grave repercussions for other regional and international actors. There is no doubt that they mostly consist of issues of interest and concern to many regional and global actors, who need to join force and make common efforts to address them. My country, as a major power in the region, is fully prepared to move in this direction and spare no effort to facilitate solutions to these issues, thus contributing to the maintenance of international and regional peace and stability. Under these circumstances, we consider the efforts by certain capitals aimed at portraying Iran as a threat and undermining Iran's credibility in the region and in the world are counterproductive and they should cease in the interest of peace and tranquility in the region and beyond.

I am profoundly disturbed over the spawning humanitarian tragedy in Syria and the enormous suffering that the Syrian people have incurred over the past two years and a half. Representing a people who experienced the horror of chemical weapons, my Government strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons in the ongoing conflict. I am also concerned about the breeding grounds created in parts of Syrian territory for extremist ideologies and rallying point for terrorists, which is reminiscent of the situation in another region adjacent to our eastern borders in the 1990s. This is an issue of concern, not only to us but also to many other countries, which requires cooperation and joint efforts aimed at finding a durable intra-Syrian political solution.

At the same time, we are pleased that diplomacy finally could have its way with regard to at least one aspect of Syrian crisis and sober judgment prevailed over saber rattling. We need to build on the partial headway that was made and try to reach an understanding on the fact that Syria is now a place in dire need of coordinated regional and international efforts. We are ready to contribute to peace and stability in Syria in the course of any serious negotiations among regional and extra-regional parties. Here too as in everywhere else, we need to avoid embroiling in a zero-sum game.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to conclude by briefly touching upon the Iranian peaceful nuclear energy program, which has been subject to enormous hype over the past several decades. You know that how many predictions regarding how close Iran was to acquire a nuclear bomb proved to be baseless. We can trace these predictions back to early 1990s. Throughout this period, alarmists kept trying to paint the face of Iran as a threatening one to its region and the whole world; a claim that have always turned out to be utterly false. And we all know also who the chief agitator is and what purposes are to be served by hyping this issue. We know also that this claim fluctuates in proportion to the size of the international pressure to stop the settlement activity and end the occupation of the Palestinian lands. These false alarming bells are oblivious, among other things, to the fact that the US national intelligence estimates maintained that Iran has not decided to build a nuclear weapon.

We are committed not to work towards developing and producing nuclear bomb. As enunciated in the fatwa issued by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, we strongly believe that the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are contrary to the Islamic norms. I also should reiterate that, in our view, we never contemplated the option of acquiring nuclear weapon. We believe that such weapons could undermine our national security interest, and as such, they have no place in Iran’s security doctrine and even the perception that Iran may pursue a nuclear weapons program is detrimental to our security and overall interest.

During my presidential campaign, I committed myself to do whatever in my power to fast track a solution for the standoff over the Iranian nuclear energy program. To fulfill this commitment and benefit from the window of opportunity that the recent election opened up, my Government is prepared to leave no stone unturned in seeking for a mutually acceptable solution. To this end, we are ready to work with 5+1, its members and others with a view to ensuring full transparency surrounding our nuclear program.

The peaceful nuclear capability that we have achieved is bound to be exercised within a transparent, internationally recognized framework, accessible to the IAEA, under its safeguards mechanisms and international monitoring, as has been the case in the past several years. We believe that it is in this appropriate and lawful way that the international community can ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program. In such framework, we are also ready to work towards removing any ambiguity and answer any reasonable question about Iran's nuclear energy program. Having done so, let me reiterate that we will never forgo our inherent right to benefit from nuclear energy under any circumstances.

The continuation of pressure, arms twisting, intimidation and extraterritorially imposed measures directed against the Iranian people and innocent civilians, trying to prevent them from having access to a whole range of necessities from technology to medicine, from science to food stuff could only poison the atmosphere and undermine the conditions necessary for making progress and weaken our resolve.

With the above elements in mind, we are fully prepared to seriously engage in the process towards a negotiated and mutually agreeable settlement and do so in good faith and with a business-like mind. We hope that our counterparts, too, benefit from this window of opportunity and are as much serious and ready to come along with an open mind and predicated on concrete and objective norms and criteria.

While thanking you ladies and gentlemen for listening to my remarks, I now look forward to listening to your comments and taking your questions.

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