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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

Hassan Rouhani: Iran ready to work with Middle East states to preserve security

Mr Rouhani did not specify which states he intends to work with

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Reuters / File photo
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Reuters / File photo

Iran wants to establish close ties with its neighbours in the Middle East, the regime's President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, pitching the ongoing conflict as the Middle East against the US and Israel.

Mr Rouhani's comments come days after world leaders met in Poland to address Iran's malevolence and as pressure mounts on European signatories to the nuclear deal to withdraw.

"Iran is ready to work with regional states to preserve security in the Middle East," Mr Rouhani said in a public speech in Bandar-e Gonaveh, southern Iran, broadcast live on state TV.

It is not clear which states Mr Rouhani hopes to work with.

Our enemies, America and Israel, want to create division among Iranians

Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran

Iran has been accused of fighting a proxy war against its regional neighbours, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, by supporting Houthi rebels fighting the Arab coalition in Yemen, and for supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Mr Rouhani blamed Israel and the US for creating division within Iran.

"Our enemies, America and Israel, want to create division among Iranians … We will not succumb to pressure from America and Israel," he said.

Meanwhile, Iran's foreign minister warned of the "great" risk of war with Israel and criticised European attempts to trade with Iran.

"Certainly, some people are looking for war...Israel," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday.

"The risk is great and the risk will be even greater if you continue to turn a blind eye to severe violations of international law," Mr Zarif said.

Last year, US President Donald Trump pulled out of a deal between Iran and world powers which lifted sanctions in exchange for curtailing their nuclear enrichment ambitions.

Mr Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran, targeting energy and currency markets, putting pressure on the country's economy.

Tehran has threatened military action to block exports of oil from Gulf countries who support Mr Trump's decision in retaliation for the sanctions.

European countries have sought to create an international payment mechanism that could allow them to continue to trade with Iran, despite US sanctions.

But this week they have received criticism from both Iran and the United States.

"Instex (the mechanism) falls short of commitments by the E3 (France, Germany, Britain) to save the nuclear deal," Mr Zarif said at the Munich Security Conference. "Europe needs to be willing to get wet if it wants to swim against the dangerous tide of US unilateralism."

Meanwhile, during the US-organised meeting in Warsaw last week US Vice President Mike Pence called on European powers to withdraw from the nuclear deal, saying their continued commitment to the deal and efforts to circumvent US sanctions is creating a rift between the Nato allies.

Mr Pence repeated the demand on Saturday at the Munich Security Conference, where he also accused Iran of anti-Semitism for its disdain for Israel and of wanting a "new holocaust" — an accusation denied by Iran.

“It is time for our European partners to stop undermining the US and stand with the Iranian people,” he said.

“The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.”

Updated: February 17, 2019 04:09 PM

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