Iranian leader: US should focus on terror, not nukes

Iranian leader: US should focus on terror, not nukesAhead of UN address, Rouhani says Tehran and Washington can work together to curb Islamic extremismBy George Jahn September 25, 2014, 12:23 pm

via Iranian leader: US should focus on terror, not nukes | The Times of Israel.


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during his keynote address at New America,
a public policy institute and think tank,
on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 in New York (Photo credit: Bebeto Matthews/AP)


NEW YORK (AP) — Iranian President Hasan Rouhani urged the United States on Wednesday to move beyond “insignificant” fears that his country seeks nuclear arms and challenged it to join his country in battling what he described as the global threat of Islamic extremism.

During a speech and question-and-answer session hosted by the New America think tank, Rouhani urged the US government to “let go of pressure politics toward Iran” — a reference to Iranian complaints that Washington’s demands at the nuclear talks are unrealistic. Repeating that Iran is not interested in nuclear arms, he urged the US to “leave behind (this) insignificant issue.”

Instead, he said, the two countries must focus on the fight against the Islamic State group and other extremist groups, the “real and serious common challenges which … threaten the entirety of the world.”

At the same time, he was critical of the US bombing campaign of Islamic State strongholds in Iraq and Syria and the growing coalition of countries seeking to stop the terrorists by military means. “Bombing and airstrikes are not the appropriate way,” he said, warning that “extraterritorial interference…in fact only feeds and strengthens terrorism.”

Blaming “the misunderstandings of the realities of the region by…outsiders,” Rouhani said wrong US policies, including the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, likely led to the birth of the Islamic State group by creating power vacuums exploited by extremists.

Rouhani also suggested it was in the West’s interest to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran, freeing Tehran to play a more active role in creating and maintaining stability in the Islamic world.

The nuclear talks appear stuck two months before their extended November 24 deadline. While the US is formally joined by five other powers at the negotiating table with Iran, it is clear that the Americans are the lead negotiators, and Rouhani directed most of his comments at Washington.

Even if a nuclear deal is sealed, it could face harsh opposition by Iranian hardliners and US congressional critics united in one fear — that their side has given away too much. But Rouhani shrugged off opposition from inside his country and said it was up to US President Barack Obama to deal with Congress.

Iran-US tensions have eased since the election last year of the moderate Rouhani. A year ago, he and Obama spoke by telephone for 15 minutes, the first time the presidents of the United States and Iran had talked directly since the 1979 Iranian revolution and siege of the American embassy. The conversation was hailed as an historic breakthrough.

Tensions have risen recently, with American officials furious over the arrest of Jason Rezarian, an American-Iranian journalist for the Washington Post detained on unspecified charges in Iran.

But Rouhani made clear he was not prepared to interfere in the case of Rezarian, whose wife was also arrested.

Iranian officials have not specifically said why the couple is being held, and Rouhani has dodged questions about their fate. Asked Wednesday about Rezarian, he said he would be freed if he is innocent of any crime.

“We must not prematurely express opinions about a case that hasn’t reached the court yet,” he said.

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