Monday 19 March 2018

Iran's reformist leader 'reaches out' to US president

Hassan Rouhani: says he'll meet UK minister this month
Hassan Rouhani: says he'll meet UK minister this month

Damien McElroy

HASSAN Rouhani, Iran's reformist new president, "reached out" to Barack Obama in an attempt by the isolated Tehran regime to improve ties with the West, the US president has disclosed.

Mr Obama said that he and Mr Rouhani had exchanged letters shortly after the Glasgow-educated Iranian leader declared on Twitter that he would meet William Hague, Britain's foreign secretary, when the pair are in New York later this month.

Mr Obama said he believed the successful negotiations over Syria's chemical weapons should demonstrate to Iran that diplomacy could work even when military intervention was threatened.

"What they should draw from this lesson is that there is the potential of resolving these issues diplomatically," he said. He said they had exchanged letters after he contacted Mr Rouhani. "I have. And he's reached out to me. We haven't spoken directly," Mr Obama said.

In his Twitter update, Mr Rouhani said Tehran had "responded positively" to a request to meet Mr Hague during the UN General Assembly at the end of the month.

The UK Foreign Office confirmed it had set a time for Mr Hague to talk with Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, but said it had not been officially notified that Mr Rouhani would be there as well. "It's a positive step and while we haven't put in a request to meet the president, we'd be happy to do so," a spokesman said.

If the meeting takes place it would be the first between a senior British minister and an Iranian head of state in almost a decade and comes after a fractious period in relations between the two countries.

Britain withdrew its Tehran embassy staff two years ago after the security forces stood back to allow hardline mobs to ransack the compound.

Ties were suspended amid anger over sanctions and divisions over the UK's leading role in efforts to halt Iran's nuclear programme. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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