Iran’s supreme leader pushes for flexibility in nuclear talks

Iran’s supreme leader pushes for flexibility in nuclear talks... 18/09/2013 News

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By Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, has advocated flexibility in talks with major powers in a rare public acknowledgment of his determination to find a solution to the dispute over the country’s nuclear programme.

The ayatollah has the last say in all state affairs and is believed to mistrust the US deeply for allegedly seeking regime change in Tehran through “the pretext” of Iran’s nuclear programme. But he said he would agree with “heroic flexibility” because such a “tactic” could be “very good and necessary”, ahead of Iran’s diplomatic meetings on the sidelines of the UN general assembly over the nuclear issue, due to take place this month.

“A wrestler can even show flexibility sometimes, but he does not forget who his rival is and what his main goal is,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a meeting with senior commanders of the elite Revolutionary Guards on Tuesday. He warned Iran’s negotiators not to forget the real intentions of “the tyranny system” – a clear reference to the US – and “understand the nature of the opposite side”.

It was not immediately clear if his comments are a green light to Iran’s diplomats to engage in direct talks with the US over the nuclear stalemate during their visit to New York next week.

US President Barack Obama said at the weekend that he had exchanged letters with Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, who won the June election on promises of “reconciliation” with the world over the nuclear programme. Voters hope his efforts will help ease international sanctions, which have crippled the Iranian economy.

Marzieh Afkham at Iran’s foreign ministry refused to reveal details of the letters, saying only that the US president had congratulated Mr Rouhani over his victory, while Iran’s president “thanked” and responded to the letter and other “issues” mentioned.

Mr Rouhani is next week due to meet William Hague, Britain’s foreign secretary, while Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, is expected to focus on the nuclear stalemate in his meetings.

Mr Zarif will meet Lady Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, and will possibly set the time and venue of the next round of talks between Tehran and six major powers – the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany.

“The diplomatic scene is a scene of smiles, requests for negotiations and [holding] negotiations. But all these behaviours should be within the framework of understanding the main challenge [with the US],” Ayatollah Khamenei said.

Iran’s supreme leader once again ruled out accusations that his regime had sought to create weapons. “We do not believe in nuclear weapons because of our beliefs, not because of [fearing] the US and others.”

Meanwhile, the supreme leader said he disagreed with those who believed the Revolutionary Guards should be involved in politics. Analysts believe Ayatollah Khamenei played a crucial role in preventing his guards from interfering in the June election. The opposition Green Movement claimed the guards had staged an “electoral coup” in the disputed election in 2009 to help secure the victory of former president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad. Huge unrest followed that election.

Ayatollah Khamenei said the guards’ constitutional duty was to safeguard the causes of the revolution but that did not mean “presence and activities” in all political, cultural and economic fields.

Parseed - The Financial Times


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