Iranian president to UN: 'Peace is within reach'

Iran's new president on Tuesday asserted that his country isn't pursuing nuclear weapons and that “peace is within reach.”

Hassan Rouhani used his first address at the United Nations to call for renewed diplomatic engagement with the United States over his country's nuclear program. He said President Obama's call for diplomatic talks during his address to the world body just hours before made him optimistic.

“I listened carefully to the statement made by President Obama today at the General Assembly,” Rouhani said. “Commensurate with the political will of the leadership in the United States and hoping that they will refrain from following the short-sighted interests of warmongering pressure groups, we can arrive at a framework to manage our differences.”

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The Iranian president went on to say that his country wants peace, even as the United States threatens war. 

“In recent years, a dominant voice has been repeatedly heard, the military option is on the table,” Rouhani said. “Against the backdrop of this illegal and ineffective contention, let me say loud and clear that peace is within reach.”

Rouhani declared “openly and unambiguously” that Iran's nuclear program is for “exclusively peaceful purposes.”

“Nuclear weapon and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions,” he said. “Our national interests make it imperative that we remove any and all reasonable concerns about Iran's peaceful nuclear program.”

Rouhani, however, said the country retains the right to enrich uranium. UN resolutions call on Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment, and Obama said Tuesday that any deal must abide by those resolutions.

“It is ... an illusion and extremely unrealistic to pursue that the peaceful nature of the nuclear program of Iran could be ensured through impeding the program via illegitimate pressures,” he said.

Lawmakers immediately panned the speech.

"President Rouhani missed an opportunity in his speech at the UN General Assembly to set a new constructive tone demonstrating Iranian seriousness in addressing its nuclear program," Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs panel and the co-author of new Iran sanctions legislation, said in a statement.

"Far from engaging in a 'charm offensive,' he repeated too many of the same old talking points blaming the United States and our allies for all of the world’s ills."

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