Rouhani says it's up to US to end tensions, hostility with Tehran

Iranian president says Iran can have positive relationship with US, but key is in Washington’s hands

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a news conference in Rome, Italy on January 27, 2016

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that Iran could have better relations with the United States, but it was up to Washington to end tensions and change its “hostile” stance towards Tehran.

"It's possible that Iran and the United states might have friendly relations. But the key to that is in Washington's hands, not Tehran's," Rouhani said in a news conference in Rome, before flying to Paris to continue his first trip to Europe since the lifting of sanctions.

"I would like to see the Americans set aside their hostility and chose another way, but inside the US there are some problems, there is no unified voice," he said adding that "the Zionist lobby" was "very influential."

Rouhani said the US could not solve any problems in the Middle East without Iran’s help, adding that he would be happy to see US businessmen in Iran.

On his first official visit to Europe, Rouhani also mentioned regional arch rival Saudi Arabia saying that its military campaign in neighbouring Yemen was a failure and a frustration.

Rouhani is midway through a four-day trip to Italy and France, looking to burnish his country's international credentials following the signing last year of a nuclear accord with world powers and the lifting of financial sanctions.

As EU companies are lining up to sign lucrative business deals, the US is keeping some of its sanctions in place, accusing Tehran of funding what it considers to be terror groups, and ties between the two nations remain terse.

Rouhani dismissed the accusations that Tehran was funding terror organisations.

"It is clear that Iran is a country opposed to terrorism and a country that fights terrorism," Rouhani said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is welcomed by Pope Francis at the Vatican on January 26, 2016 (Reuters)

The US is one of major powers in the Middle East, sporting close ties with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel and is militarily involved in both Iraq and Syria, where it is fighting DAESH terrorist group.

"The "Americans know very well that when it comes to important regional issues they cannot achieve anything without Iran's influence or say," Rouhani said.

Shiite Muslim populated Iran is the main supporter of Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad as Western countries back his mainly Sunni Muslim opponents. However, Tehran and the West are united in their opposition to DAESH.

Recent deterioration in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia escalated tensions in the region. Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran this month in a raising row over the Saudi execution of a Shiite Muslim cleric.

Rouhani said that Saudi Arabia was acting out of frustration, branding its 10-month military campaign in Yemen against Houthis, who are allied to Iran, as a flop.

"It is angry because of its failures," Rouhani said.

"Saudi Arabia has been bombing the impoverished people of Yemen for 10 months and has not achieved anything. It has not had any victory and is hated more than ever by the Yemeni people," he added.

Rouhani said that his first visit to Europe since the nuclear deal was signed has indicated that there are "great possibilities" for economic, academic, scientific, and cultural cooperation and  "today we are in a win-win situation" after years of mutual loses due to the sanctions.

After visiting the Colosseum, Rouhani departed for France.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius speaks during a session of questions to the government at the French National Assembly in Paris on January 26, 2016 (AFP)

Iran must play role in Syria and Lebanon

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said ahead of Rouhani’s arrival on Wednesday that the visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to France was important for both geopolitical and economic reasons.

"This visit, which we hope is successful, will allow us to address the international situation and regional crises where we hope Iran can play a positive role — notably in Syria and Lebanon — and our bilateral relations, particularly economic," Fabius said.

Fabius also said that the nuclear deal that France helped push through "opened the way to a reinforcement of our relations" with Tehran.

TRTWorld and agencies