Iranian President Hassan Rouhani: We won’t accept limits on “peaceful” nuclear technology, heavy-water facilities will remain operational for “nuclear medicine,” leading CNN’s Fareed Zakaria calls current diplomatic effort with Iran a “train wreck.”
Iran will not dismantle its centrifuges “under any circumstances,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told CNN on Thursday, joining the chorus of Iranian voices seeking to minimize the extent of concessions and commitments publicized by the U.S. under the interim nuclear deal implemented last week.
Speaking to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Rouhani reiterated that Iran was not prepared to slow down any of what he says is a part of the country’s civilian nuclear program.
“In the context of R&D and peaceful nuclear technology, we will not accept any limitations,” he said.
“It is a part of our national pride, and nuclear technology has become indigenous. And recently, we have managed to secure very considerable prowess with regards to the fabrication of centrifuges.”
Rouhani added that Iran would accept no limitations on what he calls “nuclear medicine.”
Refererring to the Arak heavy-water reactor, Rouhani said many are concerned may be used to produce plutonium, but it would be used strictly for medical purposes.
“We are standing on our own two feet. Iranian scientists have designed this. We have constructed it. It’s nearly finished. So when it comes to medical concerns, we cannot accept limitations,” he said.
While claiming there was “full readiness” on Iran’s part “to take the final step” on the nuclear issue, Rouhani also said the sanctions framework was unacceptable and illegal, adding, “We are not afraid of threats.”
Asked about the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, the Iranian president said, “Israel knows very well what the response would be. Israel knows well our regional capability. When it comes to practice, the Israelis cannot do that. If they do such a crazy thing, our response will make them rue the day.”
Rouhani’s aggressive tone left Zakaria with doubts about a future nuclear deal.
“This strikes me as a train wreck,” he told CNN after the interview. “This strikes me as a huge obstacle because the Iranian conception of what the deal is going to look like and the American conception now look like they are miles apart. For the first time, you have the president of Iran unequivocally saying there will be no destruction of centrifuges. He also made clear in the interview with me that the two heavy-water reactors would continue in operation. So this seems like — you know, this is stillborn.”
Is the White House turning a blind eye?
In response to questions about Rouhani’s tone in the CNN interview, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “I think we’ve answered repeatedly that how Iranian officials characterize this for a domestic audience matters far less to us than what they are actually doing.”
Meanwhile Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Iranian issue on Friday. “What I said [would happen] is happening. I said there would be an attempt to dissolve the sanctions and that is happening. I said that they would not necessarily accept the Western interpretation [of the deal] and that is correct,” he said.
A New York Times editorial on Friday also deplored Rouhani’s so-called charm offensive.
“His benign image and deft political skills could not erase or excuse the ugly fact that Iran remains the main ally of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, in the destruction of Syria and its people,” the article reads.
The New York Times also revealed at the end of the week that a three-year study by the Pentagon found that U.S. intelligence agencies are ill-equipped to detect the rate at which foreign powers develop nuclear weapons. In cases like Iran, the study found, the detection abilities are “either inadequate, or more often, do not exist.”