August 11, 2014 - 17:25 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani offered his harshest criticism yet Monday, Aug 11, of hard-liners opposed to making a deal over its contested nuclear program with world powers, saying they should go "to hell," the Associated Press reports.
Iran reached a preliminary deal last November that curbed parts of its atomic program in exchange for some economic sanctions to be eased, an agreement hard-liners said gave too much away. Now, as negotiators face a Nov. 24 deadline to reach a final deal, hard-liners have been increasing their pressure on Rouhani and those trying to reach a compromise with the West.
Speaking Monday to an annual meeting of Iranian ambassadors, Rouhani called his hard-line critics "political cowards."
"Anytime there is going to be negotiations, a handful say we are shaking. Well, to hell. Go and find a warm place for yourself. What should we do?" an angry Rouhani said in comments broadcast live on state television.
Rouhani said his government will continue his policy of moderation and "constructive engagement" with the West.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, has backed the nuclear negotiating team. Yet that hasn't stopped hard-liners from calling the interim nuclear deal a "poison chalice" for Iran. They also organized a high-profile meeting last month to criticize Rouhani and the negotiators, saying the government has no right to accept limitations on Iran's uranium enrichment.
Iran now has about 20,000 centrifuges, with half of them operating. U.S. negotiators say even 10,000 are too many.
Rouhani repeated Monday that his government seeks a "win-win" solution where both Iran and the West will feel victorious. However, hard-liners say they won't allow that to happen, setting up a possible political challenge to Rouhani's administration in the weeks ahead as negotiations continue.