BEIRUT/DUBAI (Reuters) - Negotiations that produced a framework nuclear accord are the “first step” towards better ties between Iran and the world, President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday, vowing to abide by what he called a historic deal if major powers did likewise.
“Our discussion isn’t only nuclear,” he said in a speech, citing regional and world security as potential beneficiaries of the deal, which if finalised would end Iran’s long international isolation by sanctions imposed over its nuclear programme.
“It’s not that today we have a nuclear issue and want to negotiate with the world and this issue ends: this is a first step toward productive interactions with the world,” he said, suggesting Tehran wants a deal to lead to broader rapprochement.
The tentative accord, struck on Thursday after eight days of talks in Switzerland, clears the way for a settlement to allay Western fears that Iran could build an atomic bomb, with economic sanctions on Tehran being lifted in return. [ID:nL6N0X00GJ]
The accord marks the most significant step towards rapprochement between Washington and Tehran since the 1979 Iranian revolution.
But the deal still requires experts to work out difficult details before a self-imposed June deadline and diplomats said it could collapse at any time before then.
Rouhani’s assertion that the talks are paving the way to an improvement in Iran’s foreign relations appear to contrast with a remark by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a March 21 speech that Iran was negotiating solely on the nuclear dispute.
The talks were not about regional matters, said Khamenei, Iran’s most powerful man, an apparent reference to conflicts and instability in Iraq, Syria and the Gulf.
Rouhani said he hoped that the support of the people of Iran and Khamenei for the negotiations would “continue until we reach final success” in concluding a comprehensive deal in June.
“Today is a day that will remain in the historic memory of the Iranian nation,” Rouhani said in the televised address.
“Some think that we must either fight the world or surrender to world powers. We say it is neither of those, there is a third way. We can have cooperation with the world.”
For Iran, a final deal would eventually lead to the end of sanctions that have cut the oil exports underpinning its economy by more than half over the past three years.
Still, decades of hostility remain between countries that have referred to each other as “the Great Satan” and part of the “axis of evil”.
Rouhani said Iran extended the hand of friendship to those who wanted its respect.
“With those countries with which we have a cold relationship we would like a better relationship. And if we have tension or hostility with any countries, we want an end to tension and hostility with those countries,” he said.
Rouhani said Iran would honour the deal if major powers did.
“We will stand by our word. The world should know that we don’t cheat. We are not two-faced,” Rouhani said. “If we’ve given a promise ... we will take action based on that promise. Of course, that depends on the other side taking action on their promises too.”
“If one day they choose another path, the path of choice will once again be open for our people.”
He added that world powers now accepted Iran could enrich uranium on its own soil, something he said they had once argued posed a threat to the region.
Additional reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Writing by William Maclean; Editing by Ruth Pitchford