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Rouhani Slams Iran Critics of Nuclear Talks as Cowards

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said, “Fear of interaction, fear of negotiation and fear of understanding is wrong.” Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, in one his strongest rebukes since taking office last year, censured his hardline critics for their opposition to nuclear talks with the U.S. and its allies.

“Some people deliver slogans but they are political cowards and as soon as there is talk of negotiations they say ‘we’re trembling,’” Rouhani, a moderate cleric, told Iranian officials in a meeting yesterday, according to the Iranian Students News Agency. “To hell. Go and find a warm place for yourselves. God has made you fearful and trembling.”

Rouhani’s policy of seeking dialogue with the U.S. over the nuclear program has been regularly attacked by conservative opponents who say his government is being too compliant in the face of demands by the U.S. and its allies on its uranium-enrichment activities.

“Fear of interaction, fear of negotiation and fear of understanding is wrong,” Rouhani said, referring to a September 2013 directive from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for officials to show flexibility in diplomatic efforts with world powers.

“The Supreme Leader has used the phrase ‘heroic flexibility,’” Rouhani said, according to ISNA. “So ‘fear of heroic flexibility’ is also wrong.”

The next round of high-level talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 -- the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia, China plus Germany -- is scheduled for September. Negotiators decided to extend talks and the deadline for an interim agreement to Nov. 24 after they failed to cut a final comprehensive deal by July. A deal would provide Iran with some sanctions relief in exchange for curbing uranium enrichment.

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