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Middle East

Rouhani urges leaders to engage with Iran

Iranian president publishes article in US newspaper in latest sign he wants to thaw relations with Western nations.

Last Modified: 20 Sep 2013 11:32
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Rouhani told a US television network this week that his country would never develop nuclear weapons [AP]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has urged world leaders to "seize the opportunity" presented by his election to engage his country in constructive dialogue and said his country was ready to facilitate talks between the Syrian government and the opposition.

In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post on Thursday ahead of the UN General Assembly annual meeting next week, he said nations needed to seek "win-win outcomes" instead of using "brute force" to combat terrorism, extremism, cybercrime and other challenges.

Sadly, unilateralism often continues to overshadow constructive approaches. Security is pursued at the expense of the insecurity of others.

President Hassan Rouhani

"Gone is the age of blood feuds," he wrote. "World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities."

The piece appeared to be Rouhani's latest signal that he plans to pursue a thaw in relations with the United States and other Western nations, which believe Iran is developing nuclear weapons and have imposed economic sanctions that have damaged Iran's economy.

Rouhani said in an interview with an American television network this week that his country would never develop nuclear weapons. In the Post , he referred to Iran's "peaceful nuclear energy programme" and made no suggestion of giving it up.

"To us, mastering the atomic fuel cycle and generating nuclear power is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world," he wrote.

Acknowledging a change in tone from Iran since his election in June, the White House said on Thursday that President Barack Obama might meet with Rouhani in New York next week.

"A zero-sum, Cold War mentality leads to everyone's loss," Rouhani wrote in the Post. "Sadly, unilateralism often continues to overshadow constructive approaches. Security is pursued at the expense of the insecurity of others, with disastrous consequences."

Rouhani said the people of the Middle East should be allowed to decide their own fate. He said he was ready to help facilitate dialogue in Syria, where government forces and rebels have fought a civil war for 2 1/2 years. Iran has supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with weapons and other military aid.

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