Wire News Agencies:
Iran’s new President Hassan Rowhani is waging an
International public relations campaign to improve the Islamic republic’s image, with officials condemning the Holocaust and even wishing Jews a happy new year.
The charm offensive is aimed at countering years of adverse coverage sparked by Iran’s atomic ambitions and incendiary comments by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom Rowhani succeeded on August 4.
In his first remarks since Rowhani tasked his ministry on Thursday with taking over Iran’s sensitive nuclear talks with world powers, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tehran wants to allay concerns over its atomic programme.
“Allaying international concerns is in our interest because atomic weapons do not form part of the Islamic republic’s policies,” Zarif said on Friday.
“Consequently, our interest is to remove any ambiguity regarding our country’s nuclear programme,” he said after a telephone conversation with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
She is chief negotiator for the P5+1 — the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany — who have been pressing Iran to stop enriching uranium.
Zarif, a US-educated moderate and former ambassador to the United Nations, would seem to be the spearhead of Tehran’s new toned down approach.
He said on Facebook this week that Tehran condemns the World War II Nazi massacre of the Jews, in stark contract to Holocaust denials by Ahmadinejad.
“We condemn the massacre of Jews by the Nazis, and we condemn the massacre of Palestinians by the Zionists,” he wrote, publishing the text of an interview he gave to the Tasnim news agency.
Meanwhile, Iran is carefully watching the divisive US debate on whether to launch military strikes against its chief ally, Syria, but the Obama administration may be at risk of sending Tehran the wrong message, analysts warn.
In days of passionate testimony, US Secretary of State John Kerry said America and the world must send a warning to Iran and others that they will not turn a blind eye to the use of non-conventional arms amid accusations the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad unleashed chemical weapons on his people.
“Iran is hoping you look the other way,” Kerry told lawmakers as he urged backing for punitive US strikes against Syria. “Our inaction would surely give them (Iran) a permission slip for them to at least misinterpret our intention, if not to put it to the test.”