TEHRAN: A senior Iranian official welcomed the “moderate and respectful tone” of U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly, as newspapers hailed a new path for the Islamic Republic.
“It seems a new climate has been created with the rise to power of a new Iranian government, and all international parties are trying to react to this new climate,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Morteza Sarmadi.
“For example, Barack Obama has tried to use a more moderate and respectful tone,” he said, quoted by ISNA news agency.
“But no doubt what’s important in foreign policy are actions,” he said. If the world’s major powers “respect Iran’s nuclear rights under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, I think reaching a solution is imaginable.”
Meanwhile, the press welcomed Obama’s speech for having recognized Washington’s “past mistakes.”
In remarks before the Assembly in New York Tuesday, the U.S. president pushed for a “diplomatic path” with the new Iranian government.
“I don’t believe this difficult history can be overcome overnight – the suspicion runs too deep,” Obama said.
“But I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, that can serve as a major step down a long road toward a different relationship – one based on mutual interests and mutual respect.”
The United States, other Western powers and Israel suspect that Tehran is using its nuclear program as a cover to develop an atomic bomb, something Iran has always denied.
The moderate Donya-e-Eqtesad daily greeted Obama’s “different tone,” while the conservative Jomhouri Eslami reveled in a declaration that “the U.S. does not seek regime change” in Iran.
The reformist Shargh newspaper hailed the U.S. leader’s speech for opening up “a new path” for the relationship between the two archfoes, which have had no diplomatic ties since 1980.
“Even those most pessimistic to an opening in relations have accepted that the time for change has arrived,” its editorial said.
It added that the international situation has “significantly changed in Iran’s favor,” and argued that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be “isolated” as a “warmonger.”
Engaging in negotiations with Washington and world powers over Tehran’s nuclear drive, Shargh said, would culminate in recognizing Iran’s “rights.”
Several newspapers, including the government-run Iran daily, reveled in Obama’s declaration in recognizing a religious decree by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on a ban against weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear arms.
However, optimism was not shared by all the Islamic Republic’s media.
The hard-line Kayhan daily mocked Obama’s “jabbering against Iran,” while saying his declared respect for Tehran to operate a peaceful nuclear program was “a sign of Iran’s power.”
Political analyst Saeed Leylaz, writing in Shargh, was critical of “the illusion of a magic wand” that possible rapprochement with the United States would solve all of Iran’s problems.
“Negotiations cannot solve the economic and political problems of Iran,” Leylaz added. “The solution must come from within.”
Meanwhile, Rouhani’s softened rhetoric was greeted with both skepticism and hope in Israel. Netanyahu blasted Rouhani for making what he described as a “cynical speech that was full of hypocrisy.”
“As expected, this was a cynical speech that was full of hypocrisy,” said the Israeli prime minister.
“Rouhani spoke of human rights even as Iranian forces are participating in the large-scale slaughter of innocent civilians in Syria,” he said in a statement issued early Wednesday in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu also accused Rouhani of condemning “terrorism even as the Iranian regime is using terrorism in dozens of countries around the world.”
But at least one senior Israeli minister saw an opportunity in at least appearing to engage with Iran.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid criticized Netanyahu’s instruction to Israel’s U.N. delegation to boycott the Iranian president’s speech, saying it created the impression that Israel was not interested in encouraging a peaceful solution to Iran’s suspect nuclear program.
In a text message statement sent to reporters, Lapid said the decision was a “mistake.”
“ Israel should not seem as if it is serially opposed to negotiations and as a country that is uninterested in peaceful solutions,” Lapid said.