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                                        Volume. 12112

Iran will support whoever wins at the ballot box in Syria: ambassador
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c_330_235_16777215_0___images_stories_edim_02_ep1(204).jpgTEHRAN – Iran will continue to support the Syrian government and will back whoever wins at the ballot box in the Arab country, according to Iran’s ambassador to Beirut, Ghazanfar Roknabadi. 
 
Roknabadi made the remarks during a recent interview with As-Safir Newspaper, Al-Monitor reported on Tuesday. 
 
When asked whether Tehran will continue to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the ambassador said that Iran will support “whoever wins at the ballot box.” He added that “cooperation with Syria falls within the framework of agreements between the two countries. Iran is doing its duty.” 
 
With regard to Iran’s opinion about the Geneva II conference, which is expected to be held in mid-November, he said, “Iran supports any political solution. But we want it to be on the basis of the Geneva I conference, on the basis of a Syrian-Syrian solution, and to hold the elections under international supervision.”  
 
Asked if the destruction of the chemical weapons is a strategic loss for the Syrian regime in the face of Israel, he said, “We see it as a win-win situation. We were one of the first victims of chemical weapons. Although Saddam Hussein used those weapons against the Iranian people, Imam Khomeini himself said that it would be haram [religiously forbidden] to use those weapons against Saddam. Therefore, those weapons are useless, as are nuclear weapons. Iran is against weapons of mass destruction of all kinds and calls for stripping the entire region of such weapons. Lebanon today is superior to Israel despite having no chemical or nuclear weapons. The biggest proof of this is the calm at the Lebanon-Israel border. Lebanon’s strength emanates from the balance of the ‘army, people, resistance’ and not from chemical weapons. Therefore there can be no talk about a strategic loss for Syria.” 
 
Roknabadi added, “The resilience of the Iranian people is one of the fruits of the resistance front of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and even Hamas. The fruits of resilience cannot be sacrificed. Hezbollah is a fundamental pillar of the resistance, like Syria, so how can we abandon them?” 
 
Regarding Bahrain, he said, “Iran is not directly interfering in Bahrain. Had we been interfering, things would have taken another turn. Things are peaceful till now. Iran is committed to its principles and supports the legitimate demands of people everywhere, whether in Bahrain, Palestine, Lebanon, or anywhere in the world.” 
 
Iran keen to expand ties with Persian Gulf states 
 
Asked if Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s decision not to visit Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj indicate an estrangement between the Persian Gulf and Iran, Roknabadi answered, “I don’t accept this theory and this idea. Our moving closer with the U.S. doesn’t mean that we have abandoned our constants, including the fact that uranium enrichment is a red line, as Rouhani said. This is a general strategic policy for Iran. As for the relationship with neighboring countries in the Persian Gulf, mainly Saudi Arabia, it is a priority for us, as it is with the Non-Aligned Movement countries and the Islamic countries. There is no estrangement with the Persian Gulf. The U.S. moving closer to Iran cannot be at the expense of those countries. We are charged with promoting this relationship with the Persian Gulf countries more and more.” 
 
Rouhani may visit S. Arabia after Hajj 
 
He explained, “Rouhani’s visit to Saudi Arabia had not been decided and was therefore not ‘canceled.’ A visit can be said to have been ‘cancelled’ only if were decided. But the matter was not decided in the first place. Even the invitation was not done according to protocol. There was only talk that Rouhani would like to visit. It didn’t happen because of his busy schedule. Because of the positive atmosphere between Iran and Saudi Arabia, it will be possible to schedule a visit after the Hajj. The visit doesn’t have to be during Hajj, when many officials visit.” 
 
Iran exerted great efforts to spare the region of a war
 
On rapprochement with the United States, Roknabadi said, “We are at the beginning of the road, however nothing is preprogrammed.” He indicated that no meeting was scheduled between Rouhani and the U.S. administration and that “what happened was that the Americans were the ones who wanted to move closer to Iran as a unilateral step of their own.”  
 
Regarding the “road” that started in New York, he said, “According to the logical progress of things, the air strike on Syria was about to happen. But I had already said that other reasons will block it, which is what happened. The Islamic Republic of Iran exerted great efforts to spare the region of a war. Iran addressed the public opinion of the world and of America in particular, which is where the Iranians detect a retreat in the American position. There was nothing under the table. For a long time and during all of the P5+1 meetings, the Americans have been trying to sit and talk with us bilaterally. But we insisted on our principles, our fundamentals and our bases, and we said that we cannot accept any offer or request unless America implements our conditions, most notably dealing with us as equals and speaking with us respectfully and honorably in order for us to speak with them honorably, as President Rouhani said.” 
 
He added, “What happened in New York was not official. Everyone knows how the meeting between the American and the Iranian foreign ministers happened and how the phone call from President Obama to President Rouhani happened. President Obama apologized for Rouhani regarding the New York traffic then moved to talk about the Iranian nuclear file. This year, we have detected something positive in the speech of the US president before the UN General Assembly, where he asserted that the U.S. respects and accepts Iran’s right to use peaceful nuclear energy. In that regard, we consider the matter to be a positive step. But we say that words must be accompanied by deeds. They [the Americans] must do things in order for us to trust them.” 
 
Supreme National Security Council will continue to supervise nuclear file 
 
Asked about the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and the significance of taking the nuclear file out of the hands of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, Roknabadi said, “The approach will not change. The file’s supervision and implementation was in the hands of the council that you mentioned. It will continue supervising the file, but the negotiations and the implementation will be in the hands of the Foreign Ministry.” 
 
EP/PA 

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