News / Middle East

New Iranian FM: Improving Ties to Islamic Countries a Priority

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation (front, L), arrives for former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki's official farewell ceremony in Tehran, 18 Dec 2010
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation (front, L), arrives for former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki's official farewell ceremony in Tehran, 18 Dec 2010

Iran's new interim foreign minister says one of his top priorities will be improving ties with Tehran's Islamic neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia.

At his inauguration ceremony Saturday, Ali Akbar Salehi said Saudi Arabia deserves special political relations with Iran.   He said Iran and Saudi Arabia are influential countries in the region that can resolve many problems through bilateral cooperation.

A U.S. diplomatic cable released recently by WikiLeaks said Saudi Arabia is worried about Iran's nuclear program.

Salehi also called for building strong ties with the European Union, in a break from Iran's normally hostile rhetoric toward the West.

He said despite the bloc's "illogical, unprincipled and unjust behavior," EU members are still seeking good relations with Iran for reasons including energy cooperation.

The European Union, the United States and the United Nations have imposed sanctions on Iran because of its refusal to stop enriching uranium.

Salehi also stressed the importance of expanding ties with Turkey, Russia and China, among other countries.

Salehi, Iran's top nuclear official, replaced Manouchehr Mottaki, who was dismissed on Monday.  Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave no explanation for the firing, though many experts have speculated it was due to political differences.

Salehi has also served as Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency.   He takes over as Iran prepares for nuclear talks in January with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, a group known as the P5+1.

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