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Iran’s Khamenei seeks better ties with the world, apart from US

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on July 15, 2018 shows Khamenei (C) sitting between President Hassan Rouhani (R) and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) during a government meeting in the capital Tehran/AFP

TEHRAN, Iran, Jul 16 – Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei has called for better ties with the world though not with the United States, according his official website on Monday.

Khamenei met President Hassan Rouhani and his cabinet on Sunday and spoke of the “necessity of developing diplomacy and relations with foreign countries,” according to a transcript published in English.

“Except for a few cases – such as the United States – Iran’s relations with other countries, including with the West and the East, must expand and further develop.”

Tehran’s diplomats have been scrambling to shore up trade ties with both European and Asian powers since the US announced in May that it was abandoning the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions on Iran.

Khamenei’s statement recalls a famous slogan from the early days of the 1979 revolution: “Neither East nor West, Islamic republic”, echoing a desire to strike a path independently from the major Cold War powers.

In February, Khamenei surprised observers by saying that Iran now prioritised ties with the East over the West — reflecting the much stronger ties it has developed with Russia and China in recent years.

Even before the US withdrawal, Iran had already been disappointed with the economic benefits of the nuclear deal as it emerged that a raft of remaining US sanctions were preventing the country from establishing international banking ties and other trade links.

He has called on Europe to give “real guarantees” that they can sustain trade with Iran despite US nuclear-related sanctions that will be fully reimposed by November 8.

On Sunday, he called for “courage and determination” from the government as it faced down the threats from the US, and said economic officials were now key to maintaining “hope and morale in people”.

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