(USA TODAY) - Iran's top national security official said Monday his government wants better relations with the United States, but he advised the Bush administration to stop threatening Iran and said his country will not yield to demands that it permanently stop its effort to enrich uranium - which the White House says is intended to make a nuclear bomb.
In a rare interview, Hasan Rohani, Iran's equivalent of national security adviser and the nation's chief negotiator on the nuclear issue repeated Iran's assertion that its nuclear program is only for the production of energy. Iran agreed in November to suspend efforts to enrich uranium, but Rohani said the suspension could last only for "some months, not years," while Iran talks with Britain, Germany and France about concessions on trade and other matters.
Rohani, a senior member of the Shia Muslim clerical establishment that has ruled Iran since a revolution overthrew the U.S.-backed Shah in 1979, said Iran "would like to have a suitable atmosphere for both sides to move to a better place" after so many years of estrangement. "If the United States is after solving the (nuclear) problem, definitely there would be a way (to improve relations), but we don't think they are looking for a right solution," he said. "They usually use threats, and threats cannot be a basis for dialogue."
Vice President Cheney said recently that Iran's nuclear program puts it "right at the top of the list" of potential trouble spots for the United States. Condoleezza Rice, in Senate hearings before becoming secretary of State, called Iran an "outpost of tyranny." In 2002, President Bush labeled Iran a member of an "axis of evil" and has not ruled out the use of force to overturn Iran's theocratic regime.
Rohani said neither Iran nor the United States was interested in direct talks over the nuclear issue now but that the United States was consulting with the Europeans and was well aware of the status of negotiations. He said the best way to guarantee that Iran would not build bombs was if it could develop "a close and comprehensive relationship" with the West. "The tone of their remarks has been unsuitable," he said. "The United States does not have the means or the power" to change the Iranian regime.