Iran is "very seriously determined" to resolve an international dispute over its nuclear program, the nation's recently inaugurated president said on Tuesday, hinting also that he would welcome one-on-one discussions between Tehran and Washington, the New York Times reported.
Still, neither side appeared ready to bend in its essential demands, meaning they could yet miss a critical opportunity to defuse the intensifying standoff, issue experts told Reuters for a Wednesday report.
The United States and its allies have employed harsh sanctions and threatened military force to dial back Iranian atomic capabilities that could serve crucial functions in the potential development of a nuclear arsenal. Tehran has insisted, though, that its atomic ambitions are nonmilitary in nature and has steadfastly refused to curb the controversial efforts.
Rouhani told reporters he would "not have any problem to talk" bilaterally with "whoever wants to talk to us in goodwill … even if it is the U.S.," the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. He added, though, that the other side must stop using "the language of pressure and threat."
The U.S. State Department reacted by citing several U.N. Security Council calls for Tehran to suspend the process, which can yield bomb material in addition to civilian nuclear fuel, the Times reported.
Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington shares Tehran's interest in holding "direct discussions ... but the ball is in their court."
"We still feel that they need to take steps to abide by their international obligations, and we’re not at that point,” she said.