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Rouhani in 2004: To Talk with the West, but Not to Stop the Nuclear Program

Israel, Ma'ariv

By Hayim Iserovich

“We must go forward. We may not achieve everything that we want 100%, and what the Europeans want may not come true, either. In the end, we... might compromise, accept something less that 100%, and reach an accord."


Translated by Viktoria Lymar

Edited by Steven Stenzler


16 June 2013



In a speech made by Iran's president-elect, formerly in charge of the nuclear negotiations, he introduced his doctrine regarding the conduct of his country. He noted that at the time Tehran was holding talks with European countries, as significant progress was recorded at the Isfahan facility. He also admitted the possibility that eventually, Iran would have to make concessions to reach an agreement with the West.


The victory of the moderate candidate, Hassan Rouhani, in Iran's  presidential election has raised hopes in the West that it will be possible to change the Islamic Republic's positions with respect to the nuclear program. Nevertheless, an address Rouhani delivered nine years ago reveals that the elected president opines that although dialogue with the West should be held  in parallel, the development should not be stopped until the international community will have no choice but to accept Iran as a nuclear state.

Rouhani served as the Iranian [chief] nuclear negotiator with world powers between October 2003 and August 2005, concurrent with his role as secretary of Supreme National Security Council under presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. Towards the end of 2004, he gave a speech in Tehran entitled “Beyond the Challenges Facing Iran and the IAEA Concerning the Nuclear Dossier,”1 in which he laid out his doctrine on the issue.

According to Rouhani, the powers are concerned that other states possess nuclear capability, and aware that countries that have managed to enrich uranium to a level of 3.5 percent will be also able to enrich to the 90 percent level one required for a nuclear bomb.

"The usual practice is to put pressure on a country that is standing on the threshold of this technology. That is to say, if a country does in fact fully develop this technology, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to continue the pressure," he said. "[T]he countries that are standing on the threshold of having this technology are put under a tremendous amount of pressure to force them to stop their activities and do not move toward achieving this capability. It is at this point that the pressures are redoubled."2

The Iranian official stressed that the world had tried to stop Pakistan from building a bomb and Brazil from completing the nuclear fuel cycle, but failed. "Our problem is that we have not achieved either one, but we are standing at the threshold," asserted Rouhani already in 2004. "As for building the atomic bomb, we never wanted to move in that direction and we have not yet completely developed our fuel cycle capability. This also happens to be our main problem."3

Rouhani told that the major Iranian efforts were directed toward the European countries, in an attempt at convincing them to stand up to the efforts of the U.S. and Israel to refer the handling of the Iranian nuclear case to the Security Council. "If not for the American and Israeli pressures, our issues would have been solved months ago," he claimed. "[W]e even could have reached an accord with the Europeans about the fuel cycle based on a certain formula."4


Maintained Cautious Optimism


However, Rouhani stressed the need to carry on the talks with world powers since it provides Iran time to advance toward its goals. "While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Esfahan, but we still had a long way to go to complete the project," he commented. "In fact, by creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work in Esfahan. Today, we can convert yellowcake into UF4 and UF6 [necessary for the enrichment process], and this is is a very important matter."5

Over the recent months, the representatives of Iran and the global powers kept seeking ways to build trust between the parties attempting to find a compromise on the nuclear issue. In his 2004 address, Rouhani presented the situation report in the talks with the Europeans  which informs that almost nothing has changed.

"As far as we are concerned, we are not sure about any of the promises that the Europeans are making, unless we ultimately reach a final agreement and see in practice whether they remain true to what they say," observed Rouhani. "We do not have any trust in them. Unfortunately, they do not trust us, either. They think we are out to dupe them, and we think in the same way, that they want to trick and cheat us. Therefore, we should build trust, step by step and in practice."6

Rouhani concluded, though, that "[t]his is a very, very complex and difficult effort,6 but in his further words, he might have given cause for cautious optimism.

"Personally, I am not very optimistic, but I am not without hope, either," he clarified. "In fact, I cannot even say that I am pessimistic and think that there is no way and that we are at an impasse. We must go forward. We may not achieve everything that we want 100%, and what the Europeans want may not come true, either. In the end, we ‐‐ the Europeans and us ‐‐ might compromise, accept something less that 100%, and reach an accord."8



Original Hebrew article:


The author is foreign news editor at NRG Ma'ariv [online edition of the newspaper]


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Mojtaba Salimi -

Iran-EU3's first meeting, Tehran, Iran, 21 October 2003. Iran's top negotiator: Hassan Rouhani; EU-3 ministers: Jack Straw (U.K.), Michel Barnier (France), Joschka Fischer (Germany);

Wikipedia/Uskowi on Iran - Dr. Hassan Rouhani





2., p.1


3. Ibid., p.32


4. Ibid. ,p. 27


5. Ibid., p. 13


6. Ibid., p. 38


7. Ibid., p 38-39