Ex-Iranian nuclear negotiator makes call for 'less emotion'
Published: FT, April 20 2006 18:54 | Last updated: April 20 2006 18:54
Hassan Rowhani, Iran's former top security official, has called for "more balance . . . more reason, and less emotion" in Tehran's approach to the nuclear crisis.
His remarks, reported yesterday by the official ISNA news agency, were unusually direct in advocating negotiations with the west and in criticising Iran's policy since the fundamentalist Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad won last June's presidential election. Such candour reflects concern among pragmatic conservatives as the UN Security Council's April 28 deadline approaches for Iran to suspend all nuclear activities.
Mr Rowhani led Tehran's nuclear negotiations with the European Union for two years before stepping down last year as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) after Mr Ahmadi-Nejad's victory.
Mr Rowhani, still a heavyweight in Iran's ruling elite, sits on the SNSC along with Ali Larijani, who replaced him as SNSC secretary.
"Unfortunately, with the new administration, nuclear policy and tactics were changed," Mr Rowhani said. "Although these tactics had some success, we still had to pay a hefty price."
Mr Rowhani was apparently referring to Iran resuming nuclear research in January, which prompted the showdown with the Security Council. But he also attacked the general ap-proach of President Ahmadi-Nejad and new security officials, criticising those who "never want to sit with foreigners . . . because they feel if we do, we will [always] be deceived".
In reviewing the state of talks with the EU when Mr Ahmadi-Nejad became president, Mr Rowhani said negotiations had reached the point where the Europeans "accepted our activities in Isfahan and Natanz".
Mr Rowhani probably meant that the EU was ready to accept Iran converting raw uranium into feeder gas, done at Isfahan, and its nuclear pilot plant at Natanz in return for Iran agreeing long-term suspension of industrial-scale enrichment. The Europeans have always publicly denied this.
While not mentioning the US by name, Mr Rowhani reflected the pragmatists' view that direct talks with Washington might be needed to resolve Iran's international concerns, including the nuclear issue.
He attacked "those who consider getting close to foreigners to be like getting close to Satan", a term parallelling Iran's depiction of the US as the "Great Satan".
This key division within the conservative camp was shown last month when fundamentalists opposed Iran's announcement that it was ready to talk to the US over Iraq – a proposal on hold until a new Iraqi government is formed.
Mr Rowhani and Mr Larijani are the two SNSC representatives of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – which reflects Ayatollah Khamenei's desire to keep both conservative factions involved and his pivotal role in deciding how Iran should manage the looming crisis.
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