Revolutionary Guard warns against Iran-US talks


Reuters, DUBAI

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard has warned the country’s diplomats about the dangers of dealing with US officials, according to a statement issued on Saturday, the weekend ahead of expected diplomatic contacts between the US and Iran.

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“Historical experiences make it necessary for the diplomatic apparatus of our country to carefully and skeptically monitor the behavior of White House officials so that the righteous demands of our nation are recognized and respected by those who favor interaction,” a statement from Iran’s Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (IRGC) said.

The statement was published by Iran’s Tasnim news agency on Saturday evening and said that the IRGC would support initiatives that were in line with national interests and strategies set forth by Iran’s theocratic leader and highest authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The IRGC, an elite force that was established to protect Iran’s revolution in 1979, has been under pressure in the past week not to involve itself in politics and to support the new Iranian government’s goals of better diplomatic ties and improving the economy.

On Tuesday, Khamenei appeared to give his strongest endorsement yet to new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s attempts to initiate talks with the US, saying he agreed with “heroic flexibility.”

Khamenei echoed a statement by Rouhani a day earlier that there was no need for the IRGC to be active in the political arena, but that it should be familiar with it.

The US and its allies suspect Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability and has imposed tough economic sanctions on Tehran. Iran says the program is purely peaceful.

Rouhani will pursue a comprehensive charm offensive this week while in New York for the UN General Assembly to set the right tone for further nuclear talks with world powers which he hopes will bring relief from sanctions, analysts said.

US President Barack Obama and his aides have made clear that they are ready to test Rouhani’s intentions to seek a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear dispute.

The White House has left open the possibility that Obama and Rouhani could meet on the sidelines of the UN meeting. A US official has privately acknowledged the administration’s desire to engineer a handshake between the two leaders, which would be the highest-level US-Iranian contact since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Saturday’s statement was published on the eve of Iran’s annual “Sacred Defense Week” to commemorate Tehran’s 1980 to 1988 war with Iraq.

The IRGC and conventional armed forces marked the occasion yesterday with a parade to showcase their latest military advances.

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