WASHINGTON - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wants to reach an agreement over the country's nuclear programme within three months and has full backing to broker a deal from the country's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, it was reported Wednesday.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Rouhani said he was keen to set a three or six-month timetable to seal a nuclear deal, emphasizing that Iran envisioned a process lasting "months not years."
"If we are on the issue of the nuclear file, we need resolution in a reasonable time," he told the Post.
"The only way forward is for a timeline to be inserted into the negotiations that's short - and wrap it up. That is a decision of my government, that short is necessary to settle the nuclear file.
"If it's three months that would be Iran's choice, if it's six months that's still good. It's a question of months not years."
Asked if he had the backing of Khamenei to conclude a deal, Rouhani said "settlement of the nuclear file is one of the responsibilities of my government."
"My government is fully empowered to finalize the nuclear talks," he added. The United States, other Western powers and Israel suspect Tehran is using its nuclear programme as a cover to develop an atomic bomb, something Iran denies.
Rouhani's comments come after signs of improving relations between the United States and Iran following his election earlier this year. The Iranian leader, however, balked at meeting US President Barack Obama at the United Nations on Tuesday.
The first major test of several weeks of promising rhetoric between the foes will come on Thursday, as US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif join counterparts from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia to discuss Iran's nuclear activities at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Rouhani told the Post that Iran was willing to make its nuclear programme "transparent" to assure the international community it was not seeking to build a bomb.
"If the West recognises Iran's legal rights then there's really no hurdle in creating full transparency that's necessary to settle this case," he said.
Rouhani suggested that reaching agreement on Iran's nuclear programme could be a gateway to an eventual normalization of ties with the United States. Washington broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980 following the US Embassy hostage crisis in Tehran.
"If Mr Obama and I were to get together, we would both be looking at the future, and the prospects ahead and our hopes for that future," Rouhani said.
"The notes and letters and exchanges between us are in that direction, and they will continue. We need a beginning point. I think that is the nuclear issue."