Newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for the global elimination of nuclear weapons Thursday at the High Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York as the U.S. and Iran renew talks on the Middle East country’s nuclear program.
“The world has waited too long for nuclear disarmament. The indefinite possession of nuclear weapons cannot be tolerated, nor can their complete elimination be further delayed,” Rouhani said Thursday. “Nuclear disarmament remains our highest priority.”
President Obama Tuesday called for a renewal of talks between the two countries over Iran’s nuclear program after several years of crippling sanctions. Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif Thursday in New York, in the first formal, direct session between the countries’ top diplomats since 1979. They will be joined by the foreign ministers from the five permanent members of the security council and Germany to discuss the nuclear issue.
Ushered into office less than two months ago, Rouhani–a former nuclear negotiator–campaigned on a promise to improve Iran’s international relations by addressing concerns over its nuclear program. Iran maintains that the program exists to cultivate nuclear energy not weapons.
Since his election in June, Rouhani has distinguished himself from his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as a moderate backed by reformists.
Where Ahmadinejad bolstered the country’s nuclear program, called for Israel’s destruction, and denied the Holocaust as a “myth” during his tenure, Rouhani on Thursday called nuclear weapon use “a violation against the U.N. charter and a crime against humanity.” Earlier he tweeted a Rosh Hashanah greeting to Iranian Jews, and said that “The Nazis carried out a massacre that cannot be denied, especially against the Jewish people.”
Despite expressing a willingness to meet with President Obama on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, the pair never met. “We are ready to negotiate, but we did not have enough time to make that happen,” Rouhani said.