The U.S. State Department said Monday that while the Obama adminstration was open to new nuclear talks with Iran, it would not make any new offers as concession to its relatively moderate president-elect.
- US to Rowhani: Come Clean on Nukes
- Can Rowhani Prove Iran Seeks Peace?
- Rowhani: Sanctions Benefit Israel
- Who's Speaking in Iran's Name?
It is up to Tehran to compromise, State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki, said, adding that Washington and its international partners first want a response to an offer of sanctions relief for Iranian nuclear concessions they presented in April and will not sweeten the deal.
Rowhani pledged Monday to follow a "path of moderation," and promised greater openness over the country's nuclear program, emphasizing messages from Western leaders since his victory that have brought cautious hope of new openings with Tehran.
He used his first news conference since Friday's election to sketch out views that are likely to be further welcomed in the West as possible opportunities to ease tensions, led by those stemming from Tehran's disputed nuclear program.
But he said he would not support halting Iran's uranium enrichment, which is a key stumbling block on talks between Iran and world powers.
Iran's president does not have authority to set major policies such as the direction of the nuclear program or relations with the West. All such decisions rest with the ruling clerics and the powerful Revolutionary Guard, which have so far appeared to embrace Rowhani.
Rowhani, however, can use the strength of his landslide victory and his influential connections, including former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, to try to sway policies. He also will serve as Iran's main international envoy and is almost certain to present a different tone than his combative predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who formally gives up power in August.
Rowhani described his election as opening a "new era" and said he would "follow the path of moderation and justice, not extremism."
"We have to enhance mutual trust between Iran and other countries," he said. "We have to build trust."
He also said dealing with the economy was among his priorities, in a clear reference to how Western sanctions over Iran's nuclear efforts have helped spike inflation to more than 30 percent and slashed vital revenue. Previously, Rowhani — a former nuclear negotiator — has criticized Iranian positions that have led to increased sanctions, but he also described the pressures by the U.S. and others as "oppressive."
"The Iranian nation has done nothing to deserve sanctions. The works it has done has been within international frameworks . If sanctions have any benefits, it will only benefit Israel. It has no benefits for others," he said.
He promised to encourage "step by step" measures to reassure the West over Iran's nuclear ambitions. The West claims that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon. Iranian leaders, including Rowhani, insist Iran seek reactors only for energy and medical applications.
"The first step will be showing greater transparency. We are ready to show greater transparency and make clear that the Islamic Republic of Iran's actions are totally within international frameworks," he said. "The second step is promoting mutual confidence. We'll take measures in both fields. The first step is that no new sanctions are imposed. Then, the (existing) sanctions are reduced."
Meanwhile, the UN nuclear agency chief told Reuters on Monday that Iran was making "steady progress" in expanding its nuclear program despite international sanctions that do not seem to be slowing it down.
Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), also said he remained committed to dialogue with Iran to address concerns of possible military dimensions to its nuclear activity. But no new meeting had yet been set after 10 rounds of talks since early 2012, he said.
"There is a steady increase of capacity and production" in Iran's nuclear program, Amano said in an interview.
Asked if tightening sanctions - imposed by Western powers to make the Islamic Republic curb its atomic activity - were slowing down Iran's nuclear work, he said: "I don't think so ... I don't see any impact."