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Khamenei Signals ‘Flexibility’ in Wrestle With Iran Adversaries

A worker touches up a mural of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran. Photographer: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images
A worker touches up a mural of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran. Photographer: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

Sept. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says he’s not opposed to “correct diplomatic moves” with nations that are Iran’s adversaries.

The comments by the country’s highest authority, made at a meeting with Revolutionary Guards commanders today, may signal Khamenei’s approval for President Hassan Rohani to engage with world powers when he attends the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

“I agree with flexibility because this move in certain circumstances is positive and necessary but it needs to rely on one condition,” Khamenei said, according to his website. “Understanding the opposing party’s nature and goal” are essential, he said.

“A wrestler may exercise flexibility for a tactical reason but he won’t forget who his rival is and what his goal is,” Khamenei was quoted as saying.

Rohani, who succeeded Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month, has pledged to improve Iran’s relations with the world and ease international sanctions imposed by Western powers over his country’s nuclear program. Iran says its research is solely civilian and rejects accusations by the U.S. and its allies that it seeks to develop atomic weapons.

Rohani plans a six-day visit to New York starting Sept. 22. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the United Nations Security Council powers plus Germany in nuclear talks with Iran, plans to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York, the EU said.

Final Arbiter

After eight years of bellicose statements from Ahmadinejad, Western analysts are questioning what the less confrontational Rohani can do given that Khamenei is the final decision maker on Iran’s foreign policy and nuclear program.

Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian spokesman for nuclear negotiations and a research scholar at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, said that Khamenei has endorsed Rohani’s efforts to initiate constructive dialogue with the U.S.

Khamenei “has issued the permission for the government of Hassan Rohani to enter into direct talks with the U.S.,” Mousavian, wrote in an article published yesterday by Iranian Diplomacy, a website run by former diplomats. “There is no better opportunity to end decades of hostility between Iran and the U.S.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ladane Nasseri in Dubai at lnasseri@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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