Iran’s Rouhani Suggests Referendum on Nuclear Program

DUBAI (Reuters) -
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool via Reuters)

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has suggested the Islamic Republic could hold a referendum over the country’s nuclear program amid the unraveling deal with world powers and heightened tensions with the United States, Iranian media reported Sunday.

A referendum over the controversial nuclear program could give Iran‘s leaders space to maneuver and a chance to resolve the standoff with the United States.

Top Iranian leaders have said they are not seeking war with the United States and officials speaking to Reuters from Tehran said last week that despite the sharpened rhetoric with Washington, authorities are trying to avoid an open conflict.

“Article 59 of the Constitution (referendum) is a deadlock breaker … and could be a problem-solver at any junction,” the semi-official news agency ILNA quoted Rouhani as saying late on Saturday.

Rouhani said that, when he was a top nuclear negotiator in 2004, he had proposed holding a referendum on the nuclear issue to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran has only held three referendums since its 1979 Islamic revolution – to approve the setting up of an Islamic Republic and then to approve and amend the constitution.

Washington says it has built up the U.S. military presence in the region, accusing Tehran of threats to U.S. troops and interests. Tehran has described U.S. moves as “psychological warfare” and a “political game.”

Separately, a deputy commander of Iran‘s elite Revolutionary Guards said the U.S. military presence in the Middle East was at its “weakest in history” despite the talk of a build-up.