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Rouhani reaches out to Western countries

Iranian President tells World Economic Forum meeting that the will for a final deal is strong.

Last updated: 23 Jan 2014 20:37
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Iran is determined to negotiate a comprehensive deal on its nuclear programme with major powers so it can develop its battered economy, President Hassan Rouhani has said, inviting Western companies to seize opportunities now.

Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, the pragmatic president said on Thursday Tehran was negotiating with the United States as part of a "constructive engagement" with the world and wanted Washington to back up its words with actions.

However, a day after a chaotic Syria peace conference from which Iran was excluded, he was unbending in his support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Ending the "terrorism" that is backed by some of Syria's neighbours was a precondition for any settlement of the country's civil war, he said.

I do not see a serious impediment in the way of this agreement. The Iranian will is strong.

President Hassan Rouhani.

Elected last year on a promise to improve Tehran's relations with outside world, Rouhani took the United Nations by storm in New York in September. His appearance in the Swiss resort launched phase two of a charm offensive aimed at ending international sanctions that are crippling Iran's economy.

An interim deal with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - known as the P5+1 - came into force this week. This granted Iran a limited easing of the sanctions in return for temporary constraints on its uranium enrichment and nuclear development.

Rouhani stressed his commitment to achieving a final settlement.

"Iran has a serious will to come to an agreement with the P5+1," he told the assembled business and political leaders. "I do not see a serious impediment in the way of this agreement. The Iranian will is strong."

Asked what might prevent a long-term settlement, he cited the risk of "pressure from other parties" - a veiled reference to Israel, which denounced the interim deal as an "historic mistake" and urged the US Congress to resist it.

'Deception show'

Rouhani broke no new diplomatic ground in his speech. In a private session with energy executives, he promised a new, attractive investment model for oil contracts by September as part of a drive to lure back Western business barred by the US-led sanctions, participants said.

Relations with Europe were being normalised now that the interim nuclear accord was being implemented, he said. Rouhani met European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on the sidelines of the forum, an EU official said.

Rouhani promised to pursue a consistent foreign policy of "prudence and moderation" to revive the economy.

He called for cooperation with all Iran's neighbours but did not mention Gulf rival Saudi Arabia by name and refused, when pressed twice, to include Israel among states with which Iran sought friendly relations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Davos but not in the hall during the speech, said in a statement:

"Rouhani continues Iran's deception show. The goal of the Iranian ayatollahs' regime, that hides behind Rouhani's smile, is to ease sanctions without giving up their programme to produce nuclear weapons."

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Source:
Reuters
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