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Iran's Rouhani says wants nuclear issue resolved, but draws lines

Iranian President-elect Hassan Rohani gestures to the media during a news conference in Tehran June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Fars News/Majid Hagdos
Iranian President-elect Hassan Rohani gestures to the media during a news conference in Tehran June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Fars News/Majid Hagdos

By Alexei Anishchuk

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Iran wants to end the stand-off with global powers over its nuclear program swiftly but will not sacrifice its rights or interests for the sake of a solution, President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday.

Meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a regional security summit, Rouhani said it was a good time for new steps to resolve the dispute over a program Western states believe is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

"Regarding the Iranian nuclear issue, we want the swiftest solution to it within international norms," Rouhani said at the meeting with Putin in Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek.

"Russia in the past has taken important steps in this sphere and now is the best opportunity for new steps from your side," said Rouhani, whose country has observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, dominated by Russia and China.

Iran has been in on-off talks for years with six global powers seeking to ensure it does not develop nuclear weapons capability. A solution has been elusive and the most recent talks, in April, ended without a breakthrough.

Rouhani, who was elected in June, has said Iran will be more transparent and less confrontational in talks with the six powers - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

But he made clear earlier on Friday he is only ready to go so far, indicating Iran would not give up its right to enrich uranium.

"I declare that only if there is political will, if there is mutual respect and mutual interest, and only if the rights of Iran's people are ensured, can we guarantee the peaceful character of Iran's nuclear program," he said.

Western diplomats say Iran has continued to expand its uranium enrichment capacity in recent months, potentially shortening the time it would need to produce sufficient highly-refined material for a bomb.

Rouhani said a date could be set for the next round of talks later this month during the U.N. General Assembly in New York, where meetings between Iran and some of the powers are expected.

(Additional reporting by Dmitry Solovyov,; Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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