Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday said the Islamic republic was speeding up its nuclear program, adding that Tehran doesn’t ask for permission from any other country to pursue technological advancement.
According to a report by the semi-official Fars news agency, Rouhani said Iran has made “highly important progress in the nuclear field,” but that such advancements have been overshadowed by the ongoing nuclear negotiations with world powers. Fars said Iran has accelerated what it called “peaceful nuclear activities.”
“We have made highly important progress in the nuclear field, but the negotiations receive so much attraction and hue and cry that they overshadow these activities; otherwise, we are running at a higher speed,” Rouhani said.
“We don’t and will not take permission from anyone to make progress in science and knowledge,” the president said, adding, perhaps in a veiled reference to Israel’s objection to what it considers Iran’s drive to develop nuclear weapons, that Tehran would continue to prove its enemies’ claims false.
Iran and world powers have until a March 31 deadline to reach a political agreement on Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, which the Islamic republic insists is peaceful but which other countries, including the United States and Israel, are concerned is aimed at building a bomb.
Iran on Sunday also denied a report that its supreme leader wrote a letter to US President Barack Obama, the Islamic Republic’s official news agency reported, as the country negotiates with world powers over its contested nuclear program.
The IRNA news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham as saying the report Saturday by the Wall Street Journal was “an unprofessional media game.”
“The US president has a record of sending letters and in some cases Iran responded to his letters,” Afkham said Sunday. Neither she nor the IRNA report elaborated on her comments, though Afkham said Iran had no immediate plans to write Obama again.
The Wall Street Journal report said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wrote Obama in recent weeks in response to a letter by the US president asking Iran to work with an American-led coalition fighting the extremist Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
The report said Khamenei outlined a series of abuses he said the U.S. committed against Iran in the last 60 years. However, the report also quoted an unnamed former Obama administration official suggesting it could signal a potential breakthrough in relations between the two countries, who have viewed each other with mutual suspicion since the 1979 Islamic Revolution toppled the U.S.-backed shah.
In November, Iran said it had written back in response to letters sent by Obama, the first acknowledgement in the Islamic Republic of such correspondence. However, it was not clear whether Khamenei wrote the letters himself.
U.S. and Iranian officials held a series of secret meetings in 2013 that ultimately paved the way for a historic interim nuclear deal in Geneva. Obama and Iranian President Rouhani also have had a historic telephone conversation, the first direct communication between the two nation’s leaders since 1979.