Rowhani slams Iran sanctions as he heads to NY

Rowhani slams Iran sanctions as he heads to NY

A handout picture released by the Iranian presidency shows the Islamic Republic's President Hassan Rowhani waving before entering an airplane upon his departure to the United States to attend the UN General Assembly, at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport,  (AFP PHOTO/HO/IRANIAN PRESIDENCY WEBSITE )

A handout picture released by the Iranian presidency shows the Islamic Republic’s President Hassan Rowhani waving before entering an airplane upon his departure to the United States to attend the UN General Assembly, at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport,
(AFP PHOTO/HO/IRANIAN PRESIDENCY WEBSITE )

AFP- President Hassan Rowhani Monday urged the West to interact with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, denouncing sanctions as “unacceptable” as he left for New York to attend the UN General Assembly.

Rowhani, who is heading a high-ranking delegation, will address the UN body on Tuesday in a speech that will be closely watched by the West looking for signs that his talk of change and pledges to engage the world constructively are for real.

“The path of sanctions is an unacceptable and unrealistic path. Those who have opted for (sanctions) will not achieve their objectives,” Rowhani told reporters at the airport, the ISNA news agency reported.

The UN Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran for failing to heed six successive ultimatums to suspend uranium enrichment, which Western governments suspect conceals a covert drive for a weapons capability.

“Instead of this path, they should choose one that is based on interaction, negotiation and understanding,” said the mid-ranking Shiite cleric, a reputed moderate by Iran’s political standards.

Rowhani added that he would use the chance to correct the image of Iran that was portrayed to the world under his hardline predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose fiery speeches at the UN assembly included Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories about the 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.

“There were hands at work in recent years that unfortunately introduced Iran’s image and its culture-loving, peaceful civilisation … differently,” he said, in a veiled criticism of Ahmadinejad.

Rowhani rose to office in a surprise June election victory after campaigning to repair strained relations with the international community, in particular with the West, and to shore up Iran’s ailing economy hard hit by sanctions.

Since then, he has made several diplomatic overtures with speculation rife he could also meet US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

But Washington warned on Friday that while welcome, the overtures were not enough for it to consider loosening crippling sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors that Rowhani has said he wants eased.

Rowhani is scheduled to meet with French President Francois Hollande Tuesday on the sidelines of the UN meet — which would mark the first high-ranking meeting between Iran’s leadership and a Western head of state in almost a decade — among a number of other high profile meetings, according to Iranian media.

While promising increase transparency on Iran’s nuclear drive, Rowhani has not offered much detail on how he wants to resolve the decade-long showdown over the programme.

In New York, he will team up with his top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is expected to hold talks with his British and French counterparts, as well as with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the major powers in nuclear negotiations with Iran.

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