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Iran

Iran will 'never' seek nuclear weapons

The Iranian president has said his government has no intention of seeking nuclear weapons capabilities. The comments came ahead of his first appearance on the world stage at the United Nations General Assembly.

Speaking to US broadcaster NBC, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani denied accusations that his country sought to bolster its military with nuclear weapons.

"We have never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb and we are not going to do so," President Rouhani said during the interview, which had been recorded in Tehran.

"We have time and again said that under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever."

His own authority as president took precedent over that of the Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's in matters regarding nuclear power, the Iranian president added.

Iran has pursued a nuclear program, which Tehran has contended was for peaceful purposes. However, the anti-Western and anti-Israeli rhetoric of Rouhani's predecessor - former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - only served to increase tensions and raise concerns within the international community about Iran's intentions.

Obama's approach 'constructive'

Since his election in June, the more moderate Iranian president has said he wants to improve ties with the West. He has already begun corresponding with US President Barack Obama.

President Obama wrote a letter to Rouhani shortly after the latter's election, in which he addressed key concerns in US-Iranian relations. The US president said he was "ready to resolve the nuclear issue in a way that allows Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes," according to White House spokesman Jay Carney.

Rouhani described the letter as "positive and constructive" and expressed hopes of having the opportunity to speak to US President Barack Obama when they meet for the first time at the UN General Assembly.

No formal meeting has been scheduled for the two leaders, White House spokesman Carney told reporters on Tuesday.

However, Carney reiterated Washington's hopes that Tehran keeps its promises whether Obama and Rouhani meet soon or not.

"We hope that this new Iranian government will engage substantively in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program," Carney said.

kms/slk (AP, Reuters)