Iran Wants Dialogue, Working To ‘Prevent War’, Says Rouhani

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency shows the Islamic republic’s President Hassan Rouhani chairing a cabinet meeting in Tehran on January 15, 2020. AFP

 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Friday he wants to avoid war after Tehran and Washington appeared on the brink of direct military confrontation in early January for the second time in less than a year.

Ahead of parliamentary elections on February 21 — predicted to be a challenge for Rouhani’s camp — and amid high tensions between Tehran and the West over Iran’s nuclear programme, the president said dialogue with the world was still “possible”.

“The government is working daily to prevent military confrontation or war,” Rouhani said in a televised speech.

The region seemed on the brink of new conflict earlier in January after the US killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad, prompting Iran to retaliate against US military targets in Iraq with a volley of missiles days later.

The strike caused significant material damage but no casualties, according to the US military.

Rouhani said the strike amounted to “compensation” for the death of Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s Middle East military strategy.

The tensions between the two enemies seemed to subside in the wake of the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger airliner hours after the retaliatory strikes, as Iran was on high alert for US reprisals.

The tragedy killed 176 people, mostly Iranians and Canadians.

Canada’s foreign minister on Thursday vowed to push Iran for answers about the tragedy.

“Families want answers, the international community wants answers, the world is waiting for answers and we will not rest until we get them,” Francois-Philippe Champagne said in London.

Better governance 

Ottawa said earlier that US President Donald Trump’s policies had contributed to the heightened tensions that led to the catastrophe.

In June 2019, Iran and the US had also appeared to be on the brink of direct military confrontation after Tehran shot down a US drone it said had violated its airspace.

Trump said he called off retaliatory strikes at the last minute.

The animosity between Washington and Tehran has increased since Trump withdrew the US from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed biting sanctions.

In Iran, the air disaster sparked outrage and anti-government demonstration took place every day from Saturday to Wednesday.

Concentrated in the capital, they appeared smaller than a wave of national protests in November. Prompted by a fuel price hike, those demonstrations were met with a crackdown that left at least 300 people dead, according to Amnesty International.

Rouhani implicitly acknowledged a crisis of confidence in authorities but looked to regain control on Wednesday, calling for “national unity”, better governance and more pluralism.

On Thursday, Rouhani also defended the policy of openness to the world that he has pursued since his first election in 2013, and which Iran’s ultra-conservatives criticise.

“Of course, it’s difficult,” he acknowledged, but he added, “the people elected us to lower tensions and animosity” between the Islamic republic and the world.

Rouhani said that with the nuclear deal “we have proven in practice that it is possible for us to interact with the world.”

Rouhani was speaking the day before supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is expected to lead the main weekly Muslim prayers in Tehran for the first time since 2012.

Khamenei, who maintains the West is not trustworthy, bans dialogue with Trump.

 ‘High school bully’ 

On Thursday, Rouhani said Iran’s “daily enrichment” of uranium was currently “higher” than before the conclusion of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Rouhani, who instigated the negotiations, made the comments while justifying his nuclear policy and Iran’s progressive disengagement from the accord. He also stated his willingness to continue dialogue on the agreement.

In response to the US withdrawal from the deal and sanctions, an increasingly frustrated Iran has hit back with a step-by-step suspension of its own commitments under the deal, which drastically limited its nuclear activities.

On Tuesday, Germany, the UK and France — the three European parties to the deal — announced they triggered a dispute mechanism in response to the latest step back from the deal by Tehran.

But Germany on Thursday confirmed a Washington Post report that the US had threatened to impose a 25 percent tariff on imports of European cars if EU governments continued to back the nuclear deal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the European parties of having “sold out” the deal to avoid trade reprisals from the US and said Trump was again behaving like a “high school bully”.

According to a European Union Statement, foreign policy chief Josep Borrell met Zarif in New Delhi on Thursday and urged Iran to “preserve” the increasingly fragile nuclear deal.

AFP

Iran President Asks Armed Forces To Apologise Over Downed Plane

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on May 8, 2019, shows President Hassan Rouhani speaking during a cabinet meeting in the capital Tehran.  AFP

 

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has asked the armed forces to “apologise” after the accidental downing of a Ukrainian airliner last week.

He also wants the military authorities to explain what happened in the air disaster.

Speaking on Wednesday, the President called for “national unity” among Iranians following the tragic incident that sparked global outrage.

“The people want to make sure that the authorities treat them with sincerity, integrity and trust,” he said Rouhani.

Details later….

All Responsible For Air Disaster Will Be Punished, Says Iran President

 

A handout picture provided by the official website of the Iranian Presidency on January 12, 2020 shows Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaking during a joint press conference with the Emir of Qatar in Tehran. IRANIAN PRESIDENCY / AFP
A handout picture provided by the official website of the Iranian Presidency on January 12, 2020 shows Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaking during a joint press conference with the Emir of Qatar in Tehran. IRANIAN PRESIDENCY / AFP

 

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that everyone responsible for the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner last week must be punished.

“For our people it is very important in this incident that anyone who was at fault or negligent at any level” face justice, he said in a televised speech.

“Anyone who should be punished must be punished,” said Rouhani.

“The judiciary must form a special court with high-ranking judge and dozens of experts… The whole world will be watching.”

The Ukraine International Airlines plane was brought down by a missile shortly after takeoff from Tehran last Wednesday, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.

READ ALSO: Iran Missile Operator Had 10 Seconds To Decide After ‘Communication Jam’: Guards

Iran for days denied Western claims based on US intelligence that the airliner had been downed by a missile before acknowledging that version was correct on Saturday.

It has come under mounting international pressure to ensure its investigation into the tragedy is full and transparent.

The authorities’ handling of the air disaster and has also angered people in Iran.

Videos posted on social networks on Monday purported to show people taking to the streets for a third consecutive day, with demonstrators apparently shouting slogans against the Islamic republic.

 

AFP

Ukraine President To Speak With Iran’s Rouhani Over Downing Of Plane

A photo combination of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani. AFP

 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was due to speak on the phone with Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Saturday after Tehran admitted downing a Ukrainian airliner, officials said.

Zelensky scheduled a “telephone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for 5 pm (1500 GMT),” Zelensky’s presidential press office said in a statement.

Tehran admitted Saturday that it accidentally downed the Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) plane, killing all 176 people on board on Wednesday, shortly after launching missiles at bases hosting US forces in Iraq.

Rouhani said that Tehran “deeply regrets this disastrous mistake”.

READ ALSO: Iran Guards Commander Accepts Responsibility For Shooting Down Ukrainian Plane

Tehran has now provided Ukrainian experts with enough data including “all the photos, videos, and other materials” to show the probe into the downing of the passenger jet “will be carried out objectively and promptly,” Zelensky’s office said.

Zelensky earlier Saturday demanded that Iran provide “total access” to the full inquiry for Ukrainian aviation experts and security officials sent to investigate the crash on the president’s request.

He also called for Tehran to punish those responsible for the accidental downing, pay compensation and apologise.

Iran’s downing of the plane comes after a Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014 with the loss of 296 people on board.

Investigators say a Russian-made BUK missile fired by pro-Russian separatists was to blame and the trial of four people over the crash is due to start in the Netherlands in March.

Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement in the plane’s downing.

AFP

Iran President Announces Budget Of ‘Resistance’ Against ‘Crippling’ US Sanctions

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on May 8, 2019, shows President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a cabinet meeting in the capital Tehran.
HO / Iranian Presidency / AFP

 

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani announced Sunday what he called a “budget of resistance” to counter crippling US sanctions, weeks after a fuel price hike sparked nationwide protests that turned deadly.

Rouhani said the aim was to reduce “hardships” as the Islamic republic has suffered a sharp economic downturn, with a plummeting currency sending inflation skyrocketing and hiking import prices.

The US sanctions imposed in May last year in a bitter dispute centred on Iran’s nuclear programme include an embargo on the crucial oil sector whose sales Washington aims to reduce to zero in a campaign of “maximum pressure”.

READ ALSO: World Bank Now Reducing Lending To China After Trump Outburst

Rouhani told parliament that the budget, which includes a 15 per cent public sector wage hike, “is a budget of resistance and perseverance against sanctions”.

It would “announce to the world that despite sanctions we will manage the country, especially in terms of oil,” he added.

Rouhani said the 4,845 trillion rial ($36 billion at the current street rate) budget was devised to help Iran’s people overcome difficulty.

It would benefit from a $5 billion “investment” from Russia which was still being finalised, he said, without giving further details.

“We know that under the situation of sanctions and pressure, people are in hardship. We know people’s purchasing power has declined,” said Rouhani.

“Our exports, our imports, the transfer of money, our foreign exchange encounter a lot of problems.

“We all know that we encounter problems in exporting oil. Yet at the same time, we endeavour to reduce the difficulty of people’s livelihood.”

Rouhani said that despite the US sanctions his government estimated that Iran’s non-oil economy would “be positive” this year.

“Contrary to what the Americans thought, that with the pressure of sanctions our country’s economy would encounter problems, thank God we have chosen the correct path… and we are moving forward,” he said.

The budget announcement comes after fuel price hikes Iran announced in mid-November triggered deadly demonstrations across the country.

Officials in Iran have yet to give an overall death toll for the unrest in which petrol pumps and police stations were torched and shops looted.

London-based human rights group Amnesty International said at least 208 people were killed in the crackdown, but Iran has dismissed such figures as “utter lies”.

‘Reducing Hardships’

US President Donald Trump began imposing punitive measures in May 2018, after unilaterally withdrawing from an accord that gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for limits on its nuclear programme.

The United States has continued to ramp up its sanctions this year as part of a stated campaign of “maximum pressure” against the Islamic republic.

Iran’s economy has been battered, with the International Monetary Fund forecasting it will contract by 9.5 percent this year.

The sharp downturn has seen the rial plummet and inflation running at more than 40 percent.

In his speech, Rouhani only touched on a few areas of the draft budget for the financial year starting late March 2020, which must be scrutinised and voted on by parliament.

“All our efforts are geared towards reducing these hardships to some extent so it can be more tolerable,” he told deputies.

“I deem it necessary here to tell the honourable representatives that the criteria of our budget is still based on maximum pressure and continuation of America’s sanctions,” he said.

“This does not mean that the government will not take other steps, but at the same time this is our criteria and based on these criteria we have devised and executed the budget.”

The budget comes ahead of parliamentary elections in February.

AFP

No Evidence Iran Attacked Saudi Oil Facility, Says President Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in New York on September 26, 2019. Rouhani challenged countries who accused Iran of carrying out this month’s attack on a Saudia Arabian oil facility to provide evidence. Kena Betancur / AFP

 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani challenged countries who accused Iran of carrying out this month’s attack on a Saudia Arabian oil facility to provide evidence.

“Those who make the allegations must provide the needed proof. What is your evidence?” he told reporters in New York, a day after addressing the UN General Assembly.

The United States, France, Germany and Britain have all blamed Iran for the strikes on the kingdom’s Abqaiq plant and the Khurais oil field which knocked out half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production.

AFP

Iran President Rouhani May Skip UNGA Over US Visa Delay

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani gives a speech in the city of Tabriz in the northwestern East-Azerbaijan province.  ATTA KENARE / AFP

 

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his delegation could be forced into skipping next week’s UN General Assembly because the United States has yet to issue them visas, state media said Wednesday.

Rouhani and his delegation had been scheduled to travel to New York for the annual UN gathering on Monday, but that was now looking unlikely given the lack of visas, state news agency IRNA said.

“If the visas aren’t issued in a few hours, this trip will probably be cancelled,” IRNA reported.

The delegation includes Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, who the United States imposed sanctions against on July 31.

The foreign minister had been due to travel to New York on Friday morning, according to IRNA.

The absence of Rouhani would ruin France’s bid to arrange a meeting between him and US President Donald Trump as part of European efforts to de-escalate tensions between the arch-foes.

“Iran’s absence will show that in contrast with its commitments to the United Nations and international organisations within the framework of agreements, diplomacy has no value for the United States,” IRNA said.

“Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has not left the scene and it continues its active diplomacy, the US government must answer for its behaviour,” it added.

The UN General Assembly debate is due to begin on Tuesday.

As the host government, the United States generally is obliged to issue visas to diplomats who serve at UN headquarters.

But Iran and the United States have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions in its campaign of “maximum pressure”.

Iran responded by scaling back its commitments under the landmark accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for limiting the scope of its nuclear programme.

AFP

Iran Denies Seeking War With US

Iran President Hassan Rouhani speaking during a cabinet meeting in the capital Tehran. AFP

 

President Hassan Rouhani said Iran “never seeks war” with the US, state media reported Wednesday amid a spike in tensions between the two countries.

“Iran has no interest to increase tension in the region and it never seeks war with any country, including (the) US,” the president said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

READ ALSO: 10 Migrants Killed, 30 Injured In Turkey Bus Crash

Rouhani was speaking by phone to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, as Tehran and Washington engaged in an escalating war of words following Iran shooting down a US drone last week.

“We have always been committed to regional peace and stability and will make efforts in this respect,” the Iranian president told Macron.

US President Donald Trump said he pulled back from retaliatory strikes on Iran at the last minute, rejecting Tehran’s claim that the aircraft was in its airspace.

But pressure mounted this week with Trump announcing sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader and top officials.

The new measures are the latest against Tehran since Trump pulled out of a landmark nuclear accord between Iran and world powers.

Rouhani blamed the United States for regional tensions Wednesday and said if Washington had stuck to the deal “we would have witnessed positive developments in the region”.

Iran announced in May it would suspend two of its pledges under the 2015 deal, giving the agreement’s remaining supporters two months to help it circumvent US sanctions.

On Tuesday Tehran’s top security official said Iran would “forcefully” reduce further commitments from July 7.

AFP

Trump, Rouhani Set For UN Clash As General Assembly Opens

Trump and Hassan Rouhani

 

 

The world’s largest diplomatic gathering began with a stark warning of growing chaos and confusion on Tuesday ahead of a showdown between US President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart on the floor of the United Nations.

On the opening day of the General Assembly debate, Trump and Hassan Rouhani are to take their turns at the podium four months after the US president ditched the Iran nuclear deal.

The five remaining parties to the agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — announced Monday plans to keep business ties alive with Iran, staring down Washington’s move to impose sanctions.

Eyeing his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump will also likely tout his diplomacy with Pyongyang as a win, even if the North has taken little concrete action to dismantle its missile and nuclear programs.

Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in May, to the dismay of European allies, Russia and China which had invested years in negotiations to achieve a milestone agreement on keeping Iran’s nuclear ambitions in check.

In his address, the Iranian president will stress that Iran continues to stick to the 2015 deal and portray the United States as a pariah for breaking its international commitments.

Since Trump came to power, promising that the world’s most powerful country would follow an unashamedly “America First” foreign policy, there have been growing fears about the US commitment to multilateral institutions such as the United Nations.

In a speech at the opening of the assembly, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said trust in the rules-based global order and among states was “at a breaking point” and international cooperation becoming more difficult, without specifically mentioning Trump.

“Today, world order is increasingly chaotic. Power relations are less clear,” he told the 193-nation assembly.

“Universal values are being eroded. Democratic principles are under siege,” he added just minutes before Trump was to take the podium.

Even though they will be speaking from the same stage, both Trump and Rouhani have ruled out a meeting on the sidelines of the assembly.

In a tweet on Tuesday morning, Trump said he had no plans to meet Rouhani “despite requests” to do so.

“Maybe someday in the future. I am sure he is an absolutely lovely man!” he said.

Trump used his UN address last year to bash the nuclear deal as “an embarrassment,” signaling that the United States was ready to walk away.

After its exit, the United States maintains that it is seeking to ramp up pressure on Iran which it accuses of sowing chaos in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

“As I have said repeatedly, regime change in Iran is not the administration’s policy,” Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton told reporters.

“We’ve imposed very stringent sanctions on Iran, more are coming, and what we expect from Iran is massive changes in their behavior,” he said.

Defying US on Iran

After a late meeting on Monday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini announced that a new legal entity would be set up to preserve oil and other business links with Iran.

“This will mean that EU member-states will set up a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran and this will allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran,” Mogherini told reporters, flanked by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Rouhani has also made clear he has no intention of seeing Trump while in New York during the marathon of meetings.

As a precondition for any dialogue, Rouhani said Trump would need to repair the damage done by exiting the nuclear deal. “That bridge must be rebuilt,” he told NBC news.

On Wednesday, Trump will for the first time chair a meeting of the Security Council on non-proliferation that will give him a fresh opportunity to make the case for a tougher international stance on Iran.

“The Trump administration’s approach toward Iran seems to boil down to: squeeze and let’s see what will come,” said Robert Malley, president of International Crisis Group.

U-turn on North Korea

With only six weeks to go before key midterm US elections, Trump will be seeking to appeal to his hard-right voter base from the dais of the General Assembly.

Trump used his debut address 12 months ago to threaten to “totally destroy” North Korea and belittled its leader as “rocket man,” prompting Kim to respond by calling the US president “mentally deranged.”

But returning to New York, Trump hailed “tremendous progress” to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

“Chairman Kim has been really very open and terrific, frankly, and I think he wants to see something happen,” Trump said after meeting South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Also making his second address at the General Assembly, French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to take issue with Trump’s America-First policy and make the case for strengthening the rules-based multilateral order.

Macron is championing the Paris climate agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that Trump ditched in June, arguing it would harm the US economy.

Iran To Maintain Nuclear Deal Despite Trump’s Action

Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani giving a speech during a rally in the northwestern city of Sabzevar.  Iranian Presidency / AFP

 

Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, said Monday that his country would stay in the nuclear deal even if the United States pulls out, on the condition that the other parties remain.

“Either what we want from the nuclear deal is guaranteed by the non-American parties, or it is not the case and we will follow our own path,” Rouhani said on the presidency website, without elaborating.

US President Donald Trump is due to announce on Saturday whether the United States will remain in the 2015 deal that lifted international sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran’s nuclear programme.

The other parties — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — have urged Trump to stay in the deal.

Rouhani said on Sunday that the United States would regret “like never before” pulling out of the deal, but has remained vague on how exactly Iran would respond.

On Monday, Rouhani said Iran had “thought of all the scenarios and have taken appropriate measures.

“The United States will be the principal loser in this affair,” said Rouhani.

Trump has demanded the Europeans find a way to “fix” the existing deal by putting new curbs on Iran’s missile programme and regional interventions, or he will reimpose nuclear-related sanctions at the next deadline for review on May 12.

AFP

Iran Nuclear Deal ‘Not Negotiable’ – Rouhani

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani gives a speech in the city of Tabriz in the northwestern East-Azerbaijan province on April 25, 2018, during an event commemorating the city as the 2018 capital of Islamic tourism. ATTA KENARE / AFP

 

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that the nuclear deal his country reached with international powers was “not negotiable”.

“The nuclear deal or any other subject under its pretext is not negotiable in any way,” Rouhani told Macron in a telephone call, quoted by the website of the Iranian presidency.

“Iran will not accept any restrictions beyond its commitments,” he said after new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned of Iran’s “ambition to dominate the Middle East” during a visit to Israel.

AFP

Iran Condemns U.S. Veto Of UN Jerusalem Resolution

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Iran Tuesday condemned the United States veto of a UN Security Council resolution rejecting President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which it calls “provocative and unwise”.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Monday vetoed the draft resolution which was backed by all 14 other members of the council.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said the US administration “showed its lack of compliance with international resolutions by its provocative and unwise decision to recognise Al-Quds as the capital of the Zionist occupying regime”.

He said Washington’s veto despite the rest of the council supporting the resolution “proved that it seeks a compromise by trampling on the legal rights of all Palestinians”.

Ghasemi’s statement said Tehran was unsurprised by the American recognition, given its “racist and hostile policies that unilaterally back the Al-Quds occupiers”.

Iran “strongly condemns this move and urges all countries and the international community to… prevent its implementation to preserve international peace and security,” he added.

Shiite Iran, which has put enmity towards Israel and the Palestinian cause as one of its the main pillars of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic resolution, said it will not “tolerate” the Jerusalem decision.

Tehran on Tuesday also summoned Markus Leitner, the ambassador of Switzerland which represents US interests, to protest against Haley’s “irresponsible” claims that Iran sent arms to Yemen.

In a separate statement, Ghasemi said an official and “strong” protest was conveyed concerning “the baseless and unthoughtful accusations by Nikki Haley at the UN”.

On Thursday, Haley presented what she called “concrete” evidence that a missile fired by Yemeni rebels at Riyadh airport on November 4 was “made in Iran”.

Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman at Iran’s mission to the United Nations, dismissed Haley’s allegation as “fabricated”.

AFP