Sat, Sep 27, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Iranian leader pans West, but is open to cooperation

‘BLUNDERS’:Hassan Rouhani said strategic mistakes and interference by the Western powers have turned the Middle East into a haven for terrorists and extremists

AFP, United Nations

Demonstrators yesterday shout slogans against Iranian President Hassan Rouhani outside the UN headquarters in New York.

Photo: AFP

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wavered between criticism and engagement in a speech to the UN on Thursday, slamming Western blunders in the Middle East, but signaling commitment to securing a deal on nuclear power.

Days after the US widened bombing raids against militants in Iraq to Syria, Rouhani warned that regional moderates — albeit with international support — were best placed to resolve the extremism threatening the world.

“The strategic blunders of the West in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus have turned these parts of the world into a haven for terrorists and extremists,” he told the UN General Assembly in New York.

“Improper interference in the developments in Syria are clear examples of this erroneous strategic approach in the Middle East,” he said.

Washington has the support of five Arab countries in its air campaign to defeat what US President Barack Obama on Wednesday called a “network of death” — the Islamic State group.

“The right solution to this quandary comes from within the region... with international support and not from outside,” Rouhani said, warning otherwise there would be “repercussions for the whole world.”

There was no interaction between Obama and Rouhani on the sidelines of the General Assembly, US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters.

The two leaders last year spoke by telephone, but expectations had been low of contact this time.

Rouhani is determined to lift damaging Western sanctions that have hit his economy hard and prevented oil companies from doing business in the country.

“We are determined to continue negotiations with our interlocutors in earnest and good faith, based on mutual respect and confidence,” Rouhani said of the nuclear talks.

In words that echoed Obama’s a day earlier, the Iranian leader said a nuclear deal would be a “historic opportunity” that would send a message of “peace and security.”

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany are seeking to scale back Tehran’s nuclear activities by Nov. 24. Thorny talks have taken place on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met late on Thursday for three-way talks with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton as they push for a nuclear deal by the deadline.

A US State Department official said the talks would “take stock of the work that has been done this week and discuss the path forward.”

Rouhani met late on Thursday with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who said they had “good and intense talks.

“I think we can say that we have never been closer in the past 10 years than we are now, but the truth is the last part of the journey, that is still ahead of us, is probably the most difficult. There are still obstacles to overcome,” Steinmeier said.

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