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.


Al-Nusra Front frees Lebanese hostages in swap deal

US over-reliance on Kurds in anti-ISIS fight carries many risks

German cabinet approves assistance to fight ISIS

Tunisia shortens curfew imposed in capital

Despite huge global pressure, labour exploitation continues in Qatar

Qaeda warns Saudi Arabia against executing jihadists

Iran denies any links to alleged terror plot in Kenya

Al-Nusra frees 16 Lebanese servicemen in swap deal

Britain looks poised to join Syria air strikes

Mixed verdict by Israeli court for settlers who burned Palestinian teen alive

UAE says ready to commit ground troops in Syria

Iran pilgrims break through Iraq border fence

Syria regime denies chemical weapons use

Erdogan: Turkey will not apologise to Russia

3 Saudi soldiers killed on Yemen border

Syrians negotiate rebel exit from Homs

Frustration grows as Tunisia keeps border shut over deadly blast

France says cooperation with Syria not possible under Assad regime

Iran: Saudi plan for Syria ignores Vienna agreements

Iraq PM says country has sufficient forces to fight IS

Kuwait names new acting Oil Minister in cabinet reshuffle

Number of ISIS executions hits more than 3,500 in Syria alone

‘Russia’ air strikes kill at least 18 civilians in Ariha town in Syria

EU offers Turkey cash, closer ties at migration summit

Saudi women begin first-ever campaigns for public office

Bashir takes another step on path of rapprochement with Gulf countries

Iran wants closure of nuclear probe in order to implement deal

Iran General ‘seriously wounded’ in rocket attack in Syria

Turkey seeks to ease tensions with Moscow

Turkey protests against journalist arrests

Corbyn criticised over Syria air strike rejection

Saudi women begin first-ever election campaign

Russia prepares retaliation against Turkey

Tunisia to rethink anti-IS strategy

Cameron pushes for Britain to join Syria air strikes

Erdogan denies buying oil from IS

Lavrov says no war with Turkey after 'planned provocation'

Tunisia under state of emergency

Missing Iranian diplomat found dead in Saudi

Heavy Russia raids at site of Syria plane crash

Tunisia declares state of emergency after terrorist attack in heart of capital

Bahrain calls HRW torture report 'misleading'

Syria, Russia foreign ministers set Moscow talks

Rival Libya tribes sign peace deal to end months of fighting

Turkey reveals new cabinet of Erdogan allies