First Published: 2012-04-03

 

Rafsanjani: Better Iran-Saudi ties will help Tehran counter sanctions

 

Former Iran president says Tehran should resume diplomatic relations with US which were cut off in aftermath of 1979 Islamic revolution.

 

Middle East Online

Tehran’s pragmatic voice

TEHRAN - Iran should forge better ties with regional rival Saudi Arabia to counter Western sanctions on Iranian oil, a former president who now chairs an advisory body to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged on Tuesday.

"If we had good relations with Saudi Arabia, would the West have been able to impose sanctions (on Iran's oil)?", Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani asked in the latest issue of the International Studies Journal, a three-monthly Iranian publication.

"Only Saudi Arabia could fill the void left by Iran. (All they need do is) produce oil within their OPEC quota, and then no one would be able to harass us," he said.

He also reiterated his longstanding position that Iran should resume diplomatic relations with the United States which were cut off in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"If we negotiate with them (other world powers: Europe, China and Russia), why should we not talk with America?" he said, taking up an argument he said he asked in a letter years ago to the late founder of Iran's Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

"The meaning of negotiation is not that we submit to them. We negotiate, and if they accept our positions or we accept theirs, then it is done."

Rafsanjani, who was president 1989-1997, now chairs Iran's Expediency Council, which is tasked with providing counsel to Khamenei.

He is seen as a pragmatic voice in the regime, but one who has lost much of his influence to hardliners who hold sway over the parliament and military.

"We do not need to have relations with the US as we are in best conditions. It is America that needs relations with Iran," one hardline MP, Hossein Ebrahimi who is the deputy head of parliament's foreign policy commission, was quoted as telling the Mehr news agency.

"Iran is considered to (hold) the key to American interests (in the region)," he said.

Saudi Arabia, a US ally that is also the biggest OPEC producer, is facilitating Western sanctions by promising to tap its spare capacity to make up for any imposed shortfall of Iranian oil exports.

The United States this year has been actively working to try to curb Iranian oil sales, which are vital for Tehran's finances. Washington and its allies believe Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons capability, something the Islamic republic denies.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have long competed for influence over the Middle East. They remain divided by religion (Iran is Shiite while Saudi Arabia is Sunni) and by their relations with the United States.

Rafsanjani said that "relations with Saudi Arabia are not a trivial matter" and stated: "I think it is still possible to form good relations (with Riyadh). But there are people who do not want this... some harsh remarks coming from both sides should be corrected."

Iran is resisting Western efforts to make it yield on its nuclear programme through sanctions.

Talks between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany are due to be held late next week to address the showdown. The last round of negotiations, held in Istanbul in January 2011, collapsed.

 

Gunman kills prominent writer on steps of courthouse in Jordan

Campaigning for parliamentary polls begins in Morocco

EU mission to train Libya coastguard faces delay

Turkey sets precondition for joining US Raqa operation

Famous archway collapses on Moroccan beach

Death toll from Egypt migrant shipwreck jumps to 168

Warplanes pound Aleppo ahead of UN Syria meeting

Dubai drops charges against Briton who promoted charity

Israel sentences Islamic cleric for incitement

Mosul offensive to start in ‘next few weeks’

New wave of air strikes pummels Aleppo

US, Russia trade blame for collapse of ceasefire in Syria

Hadi vows to ‘extract Yemen from claws of Iran’

Obama vetoes bill allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia

Morocco asks to rejoin African Union

Air raids pound rebel-held Aleppo

Turkey arrests prominent writer brothers

Egypt shipwreck death toll rises to 133

Gulen says will return to Turkey if US backs extradition

Occupation troops shoot, wound Palestinian with knife

UN eyes alternate aid delivery route for Syria's Aleppo

Iran condemns Saudi strikes in Yemen

Turkey's Erdogan says US arming Syrian Kurds

Obama to block Saudi 9/11 prosecution

Oil prices ease as focus shifts to producers' meeting

Opposition 'minister' among 12 dead in Syria car bomb

'13 dead' in clashes with IS in Libya's Sirte

20 civilians killed in Yemen rebel port raid

Turkish border town hit by rocket fired from Syria

Syria's White Helmets win Swedish human rights prize

UN pleads with Assad over food aid stuck at Syria border

Rouhani jabs USA over nuclear deal in UN address

Dozens more feared dead in Egypt boat tragedy

US breaks 'taboo' on Iran trade, banking

Kuwait MP gets new jail term for insulting Gulf rulers

Kuwait MPs demand urgent debate on petrol price hike

Dozens of rebels leave Homs under deal with Assad regime

Push for Iraq's Mosul faces myriad challenges

US drone strike kills 3 Qaeda suspects in Yemen

UN hopes Syria talks can resume in a 'few weeks'

Iraq forces recapture northern town from ISIS

Greece rejects asylum claim of Turkish 'coup' officer

Raids set rebel areas of Syria's Aleppo ablaze

Yemen rebels accuse detained American of spying

Israel arrests 35 Palestinians in raids