|West should use ‘best chance’ provided by Rouhani presidency: Iraq||
TEHRAN – Iraq's foreign minister said on Saturday that the new Iranian government led by President Hassan Rouhani offers "the best chance after 34 years of animosity" to improve relations with the United States and other Western countries and should be taken seriously, the Associated Press reported.
Hoshyar Zebari also told AP that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had told him that he heard no opposition to Iran, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, participating in the upcoming Geneva peace conference.
"Before he would hear outright rejection," Zebari said. "This time, everybody was quiet. Nobody objected."
Zebari said Iraq had numerous discussions with the Americans and the Iranians after Rouhani's June election.
"Our role I would not claim to be decisive or instrumental, but it was helpful," he said.
On Friday, President Barack Obama and Rouhani spoke on the phone for 15 minutes, the highest level contacts between the two countries since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.
It capped Rouhani's debut on the world stage this week at the UN General Assembly, where he repeatedly advocated for moderation and an easing of tensions.
Iraq's prime minister said in a statement on Saturday that he welcomed the latest development between Tehran and Washington as a "big breakthrough to the deadlock," expressing his country's readiness to play any role to succeed the dialogue between the two countries.
“We are optimistic about what happened recently at the United Nations," Nouri al-Maliki said.
Ahead of the General Assembly, Zebari said he told the Americans and Europeans: "Take this leadership more seriously. ... We see they are serious."
Zebari said another important indication of Rouhani's seriousness was that he appointed Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as lead nuclear negotiator.
Iran's eagerness to resume stalled negotiations over its nuclear program is another sign of a real shift, Zebari said.
Tehran insists its nuclear activities are purely peaceful but the U.S. and its allies suspect it is aimed at producing nuclear weapons. The UN, the U.S. and Europe have imposed multiple rounds of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.
If the U.S.-Iran relationship develops, Zebari said there should be direct talks.
"I think this could be more helpful, and I think on the American side they embrace that idea, but I think it's too early," he said.
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