Rouhani to UN: Iran poses 'no threat to the world'

Iranian president calls on world leaders to curtail violence and extremism, saying 'peace is within reach'

President Hassan Rouhani called on the world to "join the wave" of a world against violence and extremism and added that Iran "firmly believes" in enduring peace.
Ray Stubblebine/Reuters

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani called Tuesday on U.S. President Barack Obama to ignore "warmongering pressure groups," and instead let "equal footing, mutual respect and the recognized principles of international law" govern the U.S.-Iran relationship.

Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, Rouhani said Iran poses "absolutely no threat to the world" and that “peace is within reach,” in remarks widely monitored for signs of a diplomatic thaw with the United States.

Rouhani spoke a few hours after Obama told the assembly that he wanted a "meaningful agreement" with Iran if it acted to end international concerns over its nuclear program.

The Iranian leader, meanwhile, reaffirmed his country's position that its nuclear drive is "exclusively peaceful."

"Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions," Rouhani said.

He added that the international community had to accept Iran's nuclear activity, which many Western nations say hides an attempt to reach a nuclear bomb capacity.

The Iranian president said that he had heard the message loud and clear from "a dominant voice" that a military option to stop Iran's nuclear program is still on the table.

But Rouhani warned that it would be "an illusion, and extremely unrealistic, to presume that the peaceful nature of the nuclear program of Iran could be ensured through impeding the program via illegitimate pressures.”

The U.N. Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Iran over its uranium enrichment, which Rouhani called "violent, pure and simple."

'Old way of thinking'

Speaking on wider, global issues, Rouhani described the current systems of power in place across the globe as a polarization between the so-called "civilized" and "uncivilized."

Rouhani described the prevalent discourse as assigning the North a "central stage and relegating the South to the periphery." He said this creates “illusory identity distinctions, violent forms of xenophobia.”

He condemned this “old way of thinking” that has produced violence, extremism and intolerance across the globe.

The Iranian president cited the occupation of Palestine, the arming of Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons, the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and regional and international actors militarizing Syria as examples of this type of "zero sum thinking."

As he called for a transition toward tolerance and cooperation, Rouhani condemned "coercive" economic and military practices geared to maintain and preserve old superiority and domination.

On Syria, Rouhani said the pursuit to change regional balance through proxies "cannot be camouflaged behind humanitarian rhetoric."

He added that the use of force in Syria will only lead to “further exacerbation of violence” and called for an end to “containment policies, regime change from the outside and efforts toward redrawing of political borders."

Al Jazeera and wire services

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