TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's president said Sunday that his country would not surrender what it considers its right to nuclear development in coming talks with world powers, but that it would be "transparent" in negotiations over the contested program.
The talks, resuming Tuesday, face an informal July deadline to hammer out a final deal to limit Iran's ability to build nuclear arms in exchange for ending crippling economic sanctions it faces.
While the moderate President Hassan Rouhani and Iran's negotiators have the backing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hard-liners increasingly criticize the deal as giving up too much while gaining too little from the West.
Speaking Sunday to a group of Iranian medical and nuclear experts, Rouhani appeared to be trying to counter hard-liners in his country who say he plans to give up the program in exchange for sanctions relief.
"If the world seeks good relations with Iran, it should choose the way of surrendering to Iran's rights, respecting the Iranian nation and praising Iranian scientists," Rouhani said in the speech.
"The Iranian nation has never been after a weapon of mass destruction since it does not see it as legitimate," Rouhani said. "We do not have anything on the table to submit to others except transparency," he added.
The West says Iran's nuclear program could allow it to build atomic weapons. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes, like medical research and power generation.
Iran reached a historic interim deal in November with six world powers - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany. In it, Tehran agreed to stop enrichment of uranium to 20 percent - a level that is a possible pathway to nuclear arms - in exchange for the easing of some Western sanctions.
It agreed to dilute half of its 20 percent enriched uranium into 5 percent and turn the remaining half into oxide, which is very difficult to be used for bomb-making materials.
It also allowed international inspectors into nuclear sites. In the last week, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations watchdog, visited a uranium mine and a uranium-thickening facility in the central Iranian towns of Ardakan and Yazd.
The talks beginning Tuesday are aimed at ironing out a comprehensive deal placing long-term caps on Iran's enrichment program and other atomic activities in exchange for full relief from sanctions.
The two sides hope to reach agreement by July 20 but can extend negotiations if both agree to it.