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White House wants to engage with Rouhani, as nuclear program moves forward

(JNS.org) The White House said Sunday’s inauguration of new Iranian President Hassan Rohani, who last week called Israel “a wound for years on the body of the Muslim world,” presents an opportunity for engagement with Iran. “The inauguration of President Rouhani presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community’s deep concerns over Iran’s nuclear program,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

“The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency during a speech at an Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day rally, an annual Iranian celebration in show of support for the Palestinians.

Iranian Press TV, however, later aired what it called a corrected version of Rouhani’s statement. “After all, in our region there has been a wound for years on the body of the Muslim world under the shadow of the occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the beloved al-Quds,” Press TV quoted Rouhani as saying.

Rouhani’s remark echoed similar threats made by previous Iranian leaders. Netanyahu said the remark, in its initially reported form, should serve as a “wake up” to the world about any illusions they hold on Rouhani, whom some have called a “moderate.” “The real face of Rouhani has been exposed earlier than expected,” Netanyahu said. “This is what the man thinks and this is the Iranian regime’s operational plan… A country that threatens to destroy Israel must not be allowed weapons of mass destruction.”

Also last week, a new Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) report revealed that Iran has “taken many actions that have compounded suspicions that it has not stopped its uranium laser enrichment activities,” despite claiming in 2003 that it had abandoned this process.

The report indicated that Iran may be able to begin producing weapons-grade plutonium by next summer at a separate nuclear facility, a development that surprised nuclear officials but might also provide an easier target for a potential attack on the Iranian nuclear program. “It really crept up on us,” an official at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Vienna headquarters told the Wall Street Journal. According to the Wall Street Journal, Iran has made significant progress on the construction of a heavy water nuclear reactor that was started in 2004 in Arak in northwestern Iran. U.S. and United Nations officials believe that the Arak facility might be able to produce two plutonium bombs per year. But according to analysts, the Arak facility may be an easier target for Israel or the U.S. since it is not underground, like Iran’s other facilities in Qom and Natanz.

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