In his first news conference as Iranian president, Hasan Rouhani called for new negotiations regarding the development of an Iranian nuclear program that could be reached through "talks, not threats."
"We are ready – seriously and without wasting time – to engage in serious and substantive talks with the other sides. I am certain the concerns of the two sides would be removed through talks in a short period of time," said Rouhani, Iran's former nuclear negotiator, in an address to reporters in Tehran on Tuesday.
Though world powers suspect Iran's nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons, Tehran says it would be used for energy production and medical purposes. Rouhani, who defeated conservative rivals in June, promised moderation and transparency in his inaugural address on Sunday as a switch from the hard-line approach of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed Rouhani's optimism.
"We absolutely agree with what he said. Resolving this, like any other issue, must be not on the basis of ultimatums but on a respectful attitude to a partner," Lavrov told reporters in Rome. His deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, called for negotiations to be held by mid-September.
However, members of Congress are reluctant to ease up sanctions on Iran. On Friday, 76 Senators signed a letter to President Barack Obama urging his administration to take harsher diplomatic actions to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
"Mr. President, we urge you to bring a renewed sense of urgency to the process. We need to understand quickly whether Tehran is at last ready to negotiate seriously," senators wrote in the letter. "Iran needs to understand that the time for diplomacy is nearing its end."
In a statement made after Rouhani's inauguration, White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement that "should this new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, it will find a willing partner in the United States."
House members voted 400-20 on July 31 for a measure that would extend sanctions to more goods and services while limiting Iran's access to foreign currency markets.
According to Reuters, Rouhani blamed this measure on Israel, which he called a "war-mongering group" that "pursues the interests of a foreign country and receives most of its orders from the same country.