World Needs Iran to Stabilize Middle East: Rouhani

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Iranian demonstrators hold a portrait of Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Major General Qassem Suleimani, center, who has been advising Iraqi military leaders fighting ISIS, during a rally to mark the 36th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 11, 2015. AFP/Behrouz Mehri.

Published Wednesday, February 11, 2015

President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday the world needs Iran to help stabilize the troubled Middle East, in remarks pointing to the wider ramifications of a deal over Tehran's disputed nuclear program.

In a live televised speech to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Rouhani implicitly linked ongoing nuclear talks with world powers to resolving bloody conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

"If there is going to be peace and stability in the region, and terrorism is to be uprooted, there is no other way than with the presence of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Rouhani said.

Referring to the ongoing fight against extremists in Iraq and Syria, as well as political problems and instability in Yemen and Lebanon, Rouhani said Iran was playing a leading role in the Middle East.

"You've seen in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen that the power that could help those nations to counter terrorist groups was the Islamic Republic of Iran," he stated.

The 36th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic revolution this year is the second to coincide with intense diplomatic efforts aimed at ending a 12-year standoff over Tehran's nuclear program.

Rouhani in his speech raised the issue of nuclear talks and lifting sanctions imposed on Tehran for pursuing its nuclear program.

"What we are offering is to reach a win-win agreement, in which Iran will show transparency in its peaceful nuclear activities," he said.

"And the other side must end its wrong, inhumane and illegal sanctions. This is to the interest of both sides. They too need this."

An interim agreement in November 2013 saw Iran agree to curb some nuclear activities in exchange for limited sanctions relief but two deadlines for a comprehensive final deal have been missed.

Western nations have long accused Iran of covertly pursuing nuclear weapons, allegations repeatedly denied by Tehran, which insists its activities are for civilian energy development only.

The interim deal and subsequent talks have been seen as a victory for Rouhani's foreign policy.

Rouhani has Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s support on nuclear talks, but hardliners in Tehran regularly argue Iran has already conceded too much by accepting limits on the nuclear program.

Although, on February 8 Khamenei said that he would rather see no deal reached with major powers on his country's nuclear program than one that undercut national interests.

Meanwhile, five of the six world powers negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program have stepped back, leaving Washington to hammer out a deal with Tehran, a key US lawmaker said on Tuesday.

"It's evident that these negotiations are really not P5+1 negotiations any more," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said as he emerged from a closed-door briefing by US President Barack Obama administration officials on the status of nuclear talks with Iran.

"It's really more of a bilateral negotiation between the United States and Iran."

The five permanent UN Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany have undertaken years-long talks with Iran in a bid to halt the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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