Iran Denies Claims on New Khamenei Letter to Obama

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Monday, February 16, 2015

Iran has denied reports that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wrote to US President Barack Obama in response to an October letter mooting cooperation against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Khamenei, who has the final say in all matters of state in Iran, had sent a secret but noncommittal letter to Obama in response to his overture.

But in a statement released late on Sunday, the foreign ministry denied there had been any new correspondence.

"The US president has already previously written letters and in some cases there have been replies," ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said.

"There has been no new letter."

The Journal reported that Khamenei had raised an array of historic grievances against the United States in his response to Obama's letter, which suggested cooperation against ISIS if Iran reaches a deal with world powers on its nuclear program.

Tehran is an ally of both Baghdad and Damascus in their fights against ISIS but has kept its distance from the US-led coalition carrying out air campaigns in the two countries.

Iran and other critics opposed to US involvement in the conflict with ISIS have pointed out that Washington, in partnership with its Gulf allies, played a role in the formation and expansion of extremist groups like ISIS by arming, financing and politically empowering armed opposition groups in Syria.

Iran also believes the US and Britain are using the Islamist threat to justify their renewed presence in the region.

Iran and the US have not had diplomatic ties since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

However, there has been a growing recognition that Iran could play a role in helping to restore stability in countries such as Iraq and Syria.

Since the election of President Hassan Rouhani in June 2013, Iran-US relations have entered a new phase. In November 2014, for the first time since the Islamic Revolution, Iran’s foreign minister and the US secretary of state had a direct bilateral meeting in Vienna over Iran’s nuclear program.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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