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Khamenei Calls for 'Flexibility' in Talks with the West

Iran’s Supreme Leader signals he is open to President Hassan Rouhani's more moderate approach to foreign relations.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 9/18/2013, 3:45 AM

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
AFP photo

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei signalled on Tuesday that he is in favor of flexibility in talks with the West over the Iranian nuclear program.

Speaking at a meeting with Revolutionary Guards commanders, Khamenei said he’s not opposed to “correct diplomatic moves” with other countries.

“I agree with flexibility because this move in certain circumstances is positive and necessary but it needs to rely on one condition,” Khamenei said, in comments reported by his website and quoted by Bloomberg news.

“Understanding the opposing party’s nature and goal” are essential, he said.

“A wrestler may exercise flexibility for a tactical reason but he won’t forget who his rival is and what his goal is,” Khamenei was quoted as saying.

The comments attributed to Khamenei may be a signal that he is accepting the more moderate approach to foreign policy that has been suggested by Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani.

Rouhani, who succeeded Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month, has pledged to improve Iran’s relations with the world and ease international sanctions imposed by Western powers over his country’s nuclear program.

At the same time he made it clear recently that Iran will not give up "one iota" of its nuclear rights.

Last week, Rouhani said that the time for resolving Iran's nuclear dispute with the West was limited, urging the world to seize the opportunity of his election.

Rouhani plans a six-day visit to New York starting September 22. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the United Nations Security Council powers plus Germany in nuclear talks with Iran, plans to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York.

There were speculations that Rouhani would meet with U.S. President Barack Obama while in New York, particularly after Obama said in a television interview that he had communicated with Iran’s new president by letter.

However, the White House denied on Monday that Obama has any intention of meeting Rouhani, in what would have been the first such encounter since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian spokesman for nuclear negotiations and a research scholar at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, said on Monday that Khamenei, who has the final say on all issues, in Iran, has endorsed Rouhani’s efforts to initiate constructive dialogue with the U.S.

Khamenei “has issued the permission for the government of Hassan Rohani to enter into direct talks with the U.S.,” Mousavian wrote in an article published by Iranian Diplomacy, a website run by former diplomats. “There is no better opportunity to end decades of hostility between Iran and the U.S.”

Israel has warned the world that Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and would continue to develop Iran’s nuclear program.