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Irans new president Hassan Rouhani 370.(Photo by: Reuters)
US congressmen: Rouhani changes little in Iran
Letter from House of Representatives to the White House calls for strict sanctions on Iran's disputed nuclear program.
WASHINGTON – Iran’s presidential election has done “nothing to suggest a reversal of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons capacity,” members of the US House of Representatives wrote in a letter to the White House last week, calling on President Barack Obama to continue implementing a strict sanctions regimen on the Islamic Republic over its disputed nuclear program.

The letter was sent three days before a new round of sanctions went into effect on July 1, targeting Iran’s international trade partners in shipping, automotives and precious metals, as well as the handling of Iran’s currency, the rial.

The bipartisan group of 43 congressmen, including the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its Democratic ranking member, called the election of Hassan Rouhani unfair and unfree by international standards– and likely a ruse by Iran to buy time for progress on its nuclear program.

“There appears nothing ‘moderate’ about his nuclear policies, which are a continuation of the policies that have been roundly opposed by the international community,” the letter reads. “Moreover, decisions about Iran’s nuclear program and foreign policy rest mainly in the hands of Iran’s Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei. Khamenei has recently reiterated his view that Iran has no reason to normalize relations with the United States.”

The letter surfaced amid a swirl of questions concerning Rouhani’s intentions, and the circumstances surrounding his election. The former nuclear negotiator has said in the past that talks with the West granted the Iranian government time to continue its nuclear program. But optimists, in search of a diplomatic solution to the impasse, hope his election accurately reflects the will of the majority of Iranians to reconcile with the West.

Late on Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi played down the impact of US sanctions, which will intensify significantly with the July regimen and will further tighten after Congress passes an anticipated bill with the aim of bringing Iranian oil exports down to zero.

“We have no doubt that sanctions are a broken policy, and we are surprised about why the American government and other governments who take part in these sanctions continually repeat a mistaken and failed policy,” the state television website quoted Araqchi as saying.

“Removing sanctions would count as a confidence-building measure and can assist in a resolution of the issue, but increasing sanctions would have no result – apart from making the issue more complex and harder to resolve,” he said.
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