President warns poor turnout in election harms national interests
Iran will never hold talks with its longtime foe, the United States, under pressure, President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised news conference on Sunday, emphasizing that the US policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran has failed to achieve its goals.
“The US ultimate goal is to bring Iran to the negotiating table through ‘maximum pressure’… But we will not negotiate from a position of weakness,” Rouhani said, adding that US sanctions are futile.
“More than 20 months have passed since the new US sanctions. But our situation has improved in the last six months. So these sanctions and maximum pressure has failed,” he told reporters in Tehran.
“All [economic] indices show that we have weathered [the worst phase of] the US maximum pressure [policy]. Americans have reached the conclusion that the path they have chosen [for dealing with Iran] has been based on a wrong strategy.”
Rouhani said Iran will “force the enemy to come to the negotiating table” as it did before talks that led to a 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and six world powers.
Tensions have increased between Iran and the United States since 2018, when US President Donald Trump exited the nuclear deal and reimposed tough economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The Trump administration wants a new deal that further curbs Iran’s nuclear program, and ends its ballistic missile program and its activities in the Middle East.
Iran has rejected holding negotiations over a new deal. Rouhani said talks are possible only if the United States returns to the nuclear pact and lifts sanctions.
“They are still asking us to negotiate today, but they must return to fair conditions to make it possible,” Rouhani said.
Iran’s help essential
The president also said Iran’s assistance is essential to establishing security in the Middle East.
“Securing peace and stability in the sensitive region of the Middle East and in the Persian Gulf is impossible without Iran’s help,” Rouhani said.
He said Iran and Saudi Arabia can hold talks to resolve their issues.
“We do not have a complex irresolvable problem with Saudi Arabia, and whenever Saudi Arabia is ready, the issues between us can be discussed,” Rouhani said.
Rouhani said conditions for talks would be facilitated if Saudi Arabia ends its aggression against Yemen.
High voter turnout
Speaking about Friday’s parliamentary elections, Rouhani said a high voter turnout benefits the whole nation.
He said “minimal participation” in the polls would only make the Americans happy and will not be in the interest of the country.
Rouhani said Iranians “should not turn away from the elections” because of shortcomings in the electoral process that saw thousands of nominees disqualified by a top council that vets less qualified candidates.
Rouhani's supporters suffered a setback in the lead-up to the February 21 election after more than half of nearly 14,500 would-be candidates who sought to stand were rejected, most of them moderates and reformists.
Despite the purge, Rouhani called for a strong showing at the election.
"All elections are important to us, and I urge all people to come to the ballot box and vote... to choose the best (candidates) and have a good parliament," he told Sunday's news conference.
Ruling out resigning
Rouhani further ruled out resigning and vowed to see out his term, even as he acknowledged he had offered to step aside twice since being elected.
Rumors have swirled in Iran recently that the 71-year-old, whose second and last term ends next year, had been planning to quit, but his office denied the reports.
"My resignation does not make much sense... we have made promises to the people and we will continue to fulfil those promises" despite the economic situation and pressure from "the enemy", Rouhani said, referring to the US.
"The idea of resigning (because of these recent problems) never occurred to me."
But Rouhani admitted he had offered to resign twice in the past, and that they were rejected by Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
"In the first months after my election, I told the Leader 'If you think for some reason that someone else or another government can serve the country better, I'm ready to go'," said Rouhani.
"He vehemently rejected it," the president said.
Rouhani said he raised the issue with the Leader again during his second term.
"I would not even let the government leave its responsibility an hour earlier, not a month or a week earlier'," he quoted Ayatollah Khamenei as saying.
Reuters, AFP and Press TV contributed to this story.