Iran's President Rowhani urges the West to end cold war mentality

Iranian president calls on world leaders to seek 'win-win outcomes' to combat challenges, ahead of UN General Assembly meeting in New York

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 September, 2013, 1:04pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 September, 2013, 4:36am

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

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

"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 Rowhani'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 the country's economy.

Rowhani 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.

It was confirmed yesterday that Rowhani would meet French President Francois Hollande on the sidelines of the UN meeting. There were also growing signs the Iranian president would also meet with US President Barack Obama in what would be a landmark moment for Iran's relationship with the US and the broader international community.

"A zero-sum, Cold War mentality leads to everyone's loss," Rowhani 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."

Rowhani said the people of the Middle East should be allowed to decide their own fate. He said he was ready to help in Syria, where government forces and rebels have fought a civil war for 21/2 years. Iran has supported Syrian President Bashar al- Assad with weapons and other military aid.

"I announce my government's readiness to help facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition," Rowhani wrote. He said Iranians had embraced his pledge to engage in constructive interaction with the world.

"As I depart for New York for the opening of the UN General Assembly, I urge my counterparts to seize the opportunity presented by Iran's recent election. I urge them to make the most of the mandate for prudent engagement that my people have given me and to respond genuinely to my government's efforts to engage in constructive dialogue."

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse