Iran's Incoming President Rekindles Hope for U.S. Talks

Iranian politician Hassan Rouhani gestures to campaign supporters earlier this month near a portrait of his country's revolutionary founder. Rouhani's victory in Iran's June 14 presidential election could foreshadow a bid by Tehran to engage Washington in direct nuclear talks, according to issue experts (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi).
Iranian politician Hassan Rouhani gestures to campaign supporters earlier this month near a portrait of his country's revolutionary founder. Rouhani's victory in Iran's June 14 presidential election could foreshadow a bid by Tehran to engage Washington in direct nuclear talks, according to issue experts (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi).

Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani could build support among his nation's religious and military elite for pursuing bilateral atomic discussions with the United States, analysts told the Associated Press for a Wednesday report.

Washington and Tehran have been at loggerheads for years over Western assertions that Iran is using its purportedly peaceful atomic program as cover for pursuing a nuclear-weapon capability. No solution to the dispute has emerged from numerous meetings between the Middle Eastern nation and six negotiating countries: China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Rouhani faced little backlash after calling last month for Iranian-U.S. talks, despite prior statements of disapproval by Iran's religious leadership and Revolutionary Guard.

“The [Americans] are, as the saying goes, the sheriff. So it would be easier if we rather hammer things out with the sheriff than deal with lesser authorities,” Rouhani said in May.

Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei in March suggested he would not block a possible effort to directly engage Washington. The top cleric has the final say on all Iranian policies.

Many observers believe Saeed Jalili will step down as Iran's top nuclear negotiator after losing to Rouhani in this month's election. Jalili has developed a reputation as a relatively inflexible participant in atomic talks.

Former Obama administration Middle East adviser Dennis Ross said the incoming Iranian president “may well create an opening.”

“But we should be on our guard," Ross wrote in a Tuesday New York Times column. "It must be an opening to clarify what is possible and to test outcomes, not to engage in unending talks for their own sake.”

June 26, 2013
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Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani could build support among his nation's religious and military elite for pursuing bilateral atomic discussions with the United States, analysts told the Associated Press for a Wednesday report.

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