Rouhani shows how far he's willing to go at the World Economic Forum

Published January 24th, 2014 - 09:05 GMT

Iran is determined to negotiate a comprehensive deal on its nuclear program with major powers, President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday, inviting Western companies to seize opportunities now and invest in the country. 

Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, the pragmatic president said Tehran was negotiating with the United States as part of a "constructive engagement" with the world and wanted Washington to back up its words with actions, Reuter reported.  
He also predicted that Iran had the potential to be one of the top 10 economies in the next three decades if sanctions were lifted and economic ties normalized. 
Rouhani, who was speaking a day after a chaotic Syria peace conference from which Iran was excluded, reiterated Tehran’s position that ending "terrorism" backed by some of Syria's neighbors was a precondition for any settlement of the country's civil war.
An interim deal with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - known as the P5+1 - came into force this week. This granted Iran a limited easing of the sanctions in return for temporary constraints on its uranium enrichment and nuclear development.
Rouhani stressed his commitment to achieving a final settlement. "Iran has a serious will to come to an agreement with the P5+1," he told the assembled business and political leaders. "I do not see a serious impediment in the way of this agreement. The Iranian will is strong."
Asked what might prevent a long-term settlement, he cited the risk of "pressure from other parties" - a veiled reference to Israel, which denounced the interim deal as an "historic mistake" and urged the U.S. Congress to resist it.
In a private session with energy executives, he promised a new, attractive investment model for oil contracts by September as part of a drive to lure back Western business barred by the U.S.-led sanctions, participants said.   
Iran-Europe relations being normalized 
Rouhani also said that relations with Europe were being normalized now that the interim nuclear accord was being implemented. 
At a separate meeting with U.S., European and Arab businessmen, Rouhani said Iran was seeking investment particularly in car manufacturing, oil and gas, petrochemicals, road and rail infrastructure, and mining, a participant said. 
Policy of moderation to be pursued 
Rouhani promised to pursue a consistent foreign policy of "prudence and moderation" to revive the economy and called for cooperation with all Iran's neighbors. 
In addition, he repeated Iran's standard pledge not to seek nuclear weapons and said Tehran was willing to accept all safeguards and inspections of the UN nuclear agency, provided it was not subjected to "discrimination". 
"We never sought and will never seek nuclear weapons," the president said. "I declare that a nuclear weapon has no place in our security strategy." 
But in a foretaste of tough negotiations on a long-term agreement, he said, "Iran will not accept any obstacles to its scientific progress." 
Some Western energy chiefs said they were impressed by Rouhani's commitment to attract foreign investment in the sector, which has seen production cut by a third and exports halved by the sanctions.
"The fact that the president of Iran came to the meeting today... is clearly a sign that Iran wants to open up to international oil companies," said Paolo Scaroni, chief executive of Italy's Eni, who was at the meeting.
But he said Eni would stick strictly to the sanctions and return to Iran only when a permanent nuclear deal was concluded and contract terms were changed.
"It was an impressive presentation," said one of three other oil executives who attended and spoke with Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Support for terrorism will backfire 
With Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former intelligence chief and ambassador to the United States, sitting in the audience, Rouhani said Iran sought cooperation "with the littoral states of the Persian Gulf". 
He also renewed criticism of countries he did not name which he said were supporting terrorism in Syria, saying this would rebound on them at home. 

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