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Annan Visits Iran With Tutu for ‘Historic’ Chance to Renew Ties

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Archbishop Desmond Tutu arrived in Iran today in support of the “new spirit of openness” espoused by President Hassan Rouhani.

Annan and Tutu, accompanied on their three-day visit by former Finnish President and Nobel Peace Laureate Martti Ahtisaari and Mexican ex-President Ernesto Zedillo, will hold several private meetings with the Iranian leadership, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Rouhani took office in August after pledging to steer Iran away from the confrontational stance adopted by his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and end the nation’s political and economic isolation. Last week he was the first Iranian leader in a decade to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he said his government sought “constructive engagement with the world.”

UN inspectors verified earlier this month that Iran had frozen its most sensitive nuclear work, complying with demands from six world powers in exchange for about $7 billion in sanctions relief.

The trip by Annan and Tutu was also reported on the website of the Elders, an independent group of global leaders brought together in 2007 by the late Nelson Mandela and chaired by Annan.

“The purpose of the three-day visit is to encourage and advance the new spirit of openness and dialogue between Iran and the international community,” the group said on its website. “The Elders see the recent positive developments as a historic and strategic opportunity to end decades of animosity.”

The Elders will speak with top Iranian officials on ways to address conflicts and sectarian divisions in the wider region, the group said.

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